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F. C . PARE 

Gbe 3n$le IRoofc Series 









C L 

l ; alcon the Hunter f/. 












. J I , , ^ '"'',' 

I > . , * I ' 1 . , ' . ' 




, LENOX ' 



I HAVE gone right into the heart of " Holy Russia," to Kiev 
and Novgorod and the borders of the Caspian, in an endeavour 
to show by means of some of the early legends the ideals and 
point of view of the Russian nation while it was in the process 
of being made. The stories of the song-cycles of Kiev and 
Novgorod tell of a barbaric, though not a barbarian, world, 
full of high colour and spirited action, of the knock-down 
blow followed quickly by the hand of friendship freely extended 
to pick up the fallen foeman if indeed he has had the 
hardihood to survive. 

The land of Vladimir and Ilya of Murom the Old Cossack 
is a Christian land, with the Christianity of the Greek Church, 
and it is before all else an Easter land, where the Christian 
Festival of the Resurrection means infinitely more than it can 
ever do in countries wiiich arc not ice-bound for several winter 
months. The country is, moreover, an outpost of Christianity 
towards the East uninfluenced by Renaissance or Reformation 
and must therefore have developed interesting characteristics 
entirely different from those of Western lands. I think that 
such characteristics are clearly shown in these stories, but I 
must leave those of my older readers who are interested in this 
matter to find them out and to discover the Arthur, Guinevere 
and Galahad of Russia ; for my first concern is to tell a tale 


which will please healthy-minded boys and girls in their early 

This book might have been written by a Russian who 
thoroughly understands our language, or by an English author 
who has spent the best part of a lifetime in studying Russia 
and the Russians, illustrated by a native artist, and decorated 
by a Russian designer. When such a volume does appear, it 
will have a great interest for me. Meanwhile, I submit that 
there is some artistic unity, also, in a volume of Russian stories, 
written by an Englishman, illustrated by an English artist, and 
decorated by an English designer, the whole production being 
for an English child. 

One cannot delve far into these folk-lore records without 
becoming indebted to Miss I. F. Hapgood's English renderings 
from the collections of Kirsha Danilov, P. B. Kiryeevsky, 
A. T. Gillferding, Rybnikof, P. A. Bezsonof and others, pub- 
lished in New York in 1885 ; to J. Curtin's literal translations 
from the Narodniya Russyika Shazki of A. N. Afanasieva ; to 
W. R. S. Ralston's books on Russian folk-song and fable ; and 
to the writings of the Hon. Maurice Baring and Mr. Stephen 
Graham. To all of these I desire to express my indebtedness 
for help and guidance, though the responsibility for the telling 
and interpretation of the tales is entirely my own. If this little 
collection makes th;e* British child 'morii sympathetic towards 

i * , . r t l < J JL 

Russia and helps it" to /understand" the Russian people to a 
small degree its purpose \vill kiV.e fo^en achieved. 

R. W. 









TO KIEV . . 83 





THE GOLDEN HORDE. . . . 175 










Falcon the Hunter (p. 64) 

" Come down," cried the hero's wife 

Nightingale the Robber fell from his nest in the old oaks . 42 

It was clear that her fascination still worked upon the hearts of 

the prisoners ..... 81 

Then the Princess ran with her feet all bare out into the open 

corridor ....... 87 

Marina lay upon a couch . . . and fondled a fiery dragon with 

her right hand ...... 108 

Diuk stooped and caught Churilo by his yellow curls . . 142 

There passed over the boundless plain an aged saint with 

flowing beard, and eyes which shone with laughter . 159 

She put her good steed to the walls and leapt lightly over them . 167 
A mountain cave which no man has ever seen . . .192 

Whirlwind the Whistler carries away Golden Tress . .198 

"Oh," said the man, "I am able to do everything" . . 222 

The black-browed maid stood upon the bank as the red ship 

. . . sailed away from Novgorod .... 249 
The Water Tsar dances ..... 263 

Timothy began to dance, the cabin also began to dance, the 

table danced ...... 285 

" Bless me, Little Father, for I am going to my wedding " . 292 



s^ ^r^H;"'- 

//z<? fountain which btirst forth beneath 
the hoofs of Cloudfall, fierce Bears still come 
to quaff the waters and gain heroic strength. 



FOR thirty years Ilya sat upon the stove in his 
mother's cottage, for he was a helpless cripple 
without arms or legs, and really of no use to any one, 
either in the house or out of it. But when these 
quiet years were past and over, Ilya came to his own, 
as you shall see. 

One summer day his father and mother took 
down the wooden rakes and went out into the sunny 
meadow round which the tall pines stood to help to 
make the hay ; and Ilya was left alone in the cottage 
with his thoughts. 

All at once he heard a deep voice at the door 
which said, " In the Name of the Father and of the 
Son and of the Holy Ghost." * Amen/' responded 
Ilya at once, and three wayfarers entered after 
bowing at the threshold. They were old and vener- 
able, and Ilya knew them at once to be singers of 
holy psalms, who never lacked food and drink 
among the peasants whose lives they cheered. So, 
when they asked him for something to drink, he 
spoke gently to them, partly, however, because he 
feared the result of their displeasure. 


" Venerable masters," he said, ' whatever is 
within the house is yours, but, to my sorrow, I 
cannot rise to wait upon you." Then the holy men 
looked steadily at him, and before their steadfast 
gaze Ilya's eyes fell in humility as before the Holy 
Cross ; and as he looked downwards they said to 
him, " Arise and wash yourself, for you shall be 
able to walk and to wait upon us." 

Somehow, Ilya seemed to obey them in spite of 
himself. He got down from the stove and walked 
with the legs of a full-grown man of mighty stature. 
Then stretching out his brawny arms he took the 
cup, filled it with the drink of the rye, and offered it 
to the holy guests on bended knee. They took it 
from him, drank one after the other, and gave it to 
him again, saying, " Drink in your turn, Ilya." The 
young man obeyed without a word, and then awaited 
the further pleasure of the visitors. 

1 Ilya, son of weakness," they said, ' how is it 
with your strength ? ' 

I thank you with reverence, venerable sirs," 
he replied, bowing low before them, " my strength 
is now such as could surely move the earth." 

The old men turned from him and regarded each 
other with a look of wisdom so pure and clear and 
like a shaft of brightest sunlight that Ilya's eyes 
sought the earthen floor of the cottage once again. 

Then one of the guests, who seemed to be the 

leader, said in a quiet voice of authority, " Give us to 

drink once more," and Ilya obeyed without question. 

' Drink now yourself, Ilya," they said, and he did so. 


" Ilya, son of weakness," they said, * how is it 
now with your strength ? ' 

" I thank you with reverence, venerable sirs," 
he said, " my strength is great, but only half the 
strength I had." 

" That is well," said the old men ; "if it were 
greater, then moist Mother Earth would be too 
frail to bear you." 

Then the old men told Ilya to go out into the 
summer sunlight, and he walked out of the cottage 
for the first time, followed by his deliverers ; and 
there, standing in the light, the young man received 
his blessing and his charge. 

" Ilya, son of strength," they said, ' it is God 
Himself who has redeemed you from weakness. 
Therefore you are bound to defend the faith of 
Christ against all unbelievers, however bold and 
daring they may be, remembering always that it is 
not written that you should come to your death in 

' In the whole white world there is none stronger 
than you except Svyatogor, whom you will meet 
before long. Avoid conflict with him, and him 
alone ; do not spend your strength on the soil or 
the meadow or the forest, but set out without delay 
for the royal city of Kiev." 

Having spoken these words, the old men vanished, 
and Ilya did not see either how or where they went. 
He only knew that he stood alone in the light of the 
sun, and he stretched out his great arms as if he had 
just awakened from a long refreshing sleep. 


Then the young giant went to seek his father and 
mother, and found them resting in the shade of the 
pine trees by the side of the meadow. The whole 
company was asleep, and taking up one of their axes, 
Ilya began to hew at the trunks of the pines. It is 
a matter for wonder that the sound of the crashing 
trunks which was soon heard did not immediately 
awake the sleepers, for the young man laid about 
him lustily during the space of an hour, and at the 
end of that time had felled a small wood about the 
extent of a field ; which is really not so very marvel- 
lous after all, seeing that he had been storing up 
strength for thirty years. When he had finished 
this work he drove all the axes lying near the sleepers 
into a tree -stump with a quiet laugh. " Ah," he 
said to himself, " they must ask me for these axes if 
they wish to use them again." 

After a while the young man's parents and their 
labourers awoke from sleep, for by his tree-felling 
Ilya had taken away the shade, and the hot sunlight 
was now beating full upon their faces. With blinking 
eyes they looked around, and when they saw the 
fallen timber and the axes deeply embedded in the 
stump of a tree, they began somewhat slowly to be 
filled with very great wonder, and said to one another, 
" Who has done this ? " 

Then Ilya came out of the forest where he had 
been hiding and enjoying their awakening. The 
men were now trying in vain to draw out the axes, 
and he took them easily from the stump, and handed 
them to the wondering servants without a word 


being spoken on either side ; for the labourers were 
too much dazed to break the silence by speech. 

For a few moments the father and mother gazed 
at the tall young man, the eyes of the former dwelling 
upon his stature, his strong limbs, and his mighty 
shoulders, while the mother gazed steadfastly at the 
face of her son, which was radiant with a wonderful 
light. Then, clasping his hands and closing his 
eyes, the old man gave thanks to God that he should 
be the father of so splendid a workman ; but Ilya 
showed no sign of continuing in his peasant's task, 
for with a low bow of reverence to his parents, he 
strode away without a word across the open plain. 

His mother watched him go in silence, and then 
she bowed her head as before the Holy Cross ; for 
the light which she had seen in the young man's 
eyes never shone in the eyes of a woodman or of one 
content to spend the summer day making hay in the 
pine-encircled meadow. 

Now, as Ilya went on his way he saw a peasant 
walking heavily across a field, leading a shaggy 
brown foal, and, in spite of his manhood, this was 
the first foal that Ilya had ever seen. He suddenly 
felt a great desire to have this shaggy steed for him- 
self, and having money in his pocket though how 
it had got there he could not tell he soon made 
the purchase. He paid little attention to the price 
asked by the greedy, crafty peasant, which was large 
enough as a plain matter of horse-dealing, for Ilya 
was no bargain driver. 



" Now," he said to himself, as he patted the 
shaggy mane of the little horse, " I must take three 
months to make this brown foal into a charger ; so 
for that time, at least, I must dwell at home." He 
therefore turned back to his father's cottage, and, 
to the quiet delight of his mother, lived there for 
the time he had appointed. Ilya did not think out 
his plans for himself at this time, but had a curious 
feeling that his way was being made plain before 
him without his will. 

The foal was at once tied up in the beast-stall 
in his father's stable, and fed on the finest white 
Turkish wheat to the great surprise of the old man, 
who, however, made no remark, for the strange 
things now happening in his household were rather 
too much for him. When the shaggy brown foal 
had been fed for three months in this careful and 
very extravagant way, Ilya left it for three nights 
in the garden so that the Powers of Heaven might 
anoint it with three successive dews. After this, 
he made a trial of the horse, which was now very 
strong and frisky, and found that it had become a 
truly heroic charger, capable of trotting and gallop- 
ing, and while full of fire and spirit, obedient to its 
master's lightest word. To this charger Ilya gave 
the name of Cloudfall, and he now made preparations 
for setting out on his adventures. 



ILYA rose early one morning, dressed himself in 
his best, and respectfully informed his parents that 
he wished to leave his home. The old people, who 
now felt that it would be very unwise, as well as 
useless, to interfere in the proceedings of their wonder- 
ful son, gave him their blessing. His father then 
went off to his duties with a grunt, and his mother 
turned to her cooking on the stove with a sigh ; 
for the stove always reminded her of the cripple 
boy who had been of no use to any one. 

Meanwhile Ilya had saddled his good steed 
Cloudfall, and in a short time had ridden far across 
the open plain. As night was falling he came to a 
large tent of fair white linen which had been set 
up near a spreading oak tree. Peeping into this 
pavilion, he saw a huge bed with the skins turned 
down, the pillow smoothed, and everything ready 
for rest. So he fastened Cloudfall to the oak, crept 
into the bed, and fell into a deep slumber which 
lasted for three days and three nights. 

On the third day of the sleep of Ilya, Cloudfall 



raised his head from his grazing and pricked up his 
ears, for out of the north came a noise like an earth- 
quake. Moist Mother Earth rocked from side to 
side, the tall pines shook and staggered as if they 
were about to fall headlong, and the water of the 
river suddenly heaved and then overflowed its banks. 
Roused by the sound, the intelligent animal beat 
loudly with his hoof upon the earth in the hope of 
rousing Ilya ; but the young man slept the sleep of a 
tired child. 

Then Cloudfall put his head through the opening 
of the tent and snouted above the storm in the 
speech of Holy Russia, " Ho, ho ! Ilya, do you sleep 
there and take your ease, unmindful of the great 
misfortune that threatens to o'erwhelm you ? The 
hero Svyatogor is coming to his pavilion where you 
lodge unasked. Loose me, and let me take to the 
open plain, and as for yourself, climb up at once 
into the tall oak tree on the top of yonder hillock." 

It would have been too wonderful if Ilya had 
slept when this strange voice sounded in his ear. 
Up he sprang, fresh from his slumber and wide 
awake at once, as every young and healthy person 
must be who has slept well, loosed the thong which 
bound Cloudfall to the oak, and climbed without 
further delay into the branches of the tree on the 

When he looked down, he saw Svyatogor for the 
first time, and there could be no doubt that he was 
a hero. He was taller than the trees of the wood, 
and his flowing locks seemed to be somewhat con- 


fused with the flying clouds. Upon his broad 
shoulder he carried a casket of crystal, and when he 
drew near to the pavilion by the first oak tree, he 
stooped and set it gently upon the ground and 
opened it with a key of gold. 

The crystal door swung back without a sound, 
and out stepped the wife of the hero. In all the 
white world no beauty like this had ever been seen 
or told. She was tall and stately, but she stepped as 
daintily as a white hind. Her eyes were clear and 
steady as those of the falcon, her eyebrows were as 
black as a starless night, and the whiteness of her 
skin dazzled the eyes of Ilya in his oak. 

As soon as she had stepped out from the crystal 
casket, she prepared the table for her lord, spreading 
upon it a cloth of lawn with drawn thread-work as 
white as Russia in winter, and placing upon it sweet- 
meats of various kinds. Then she stepped back to 
her crystal casket and brought out a flagon, wondrously 
fashioned, containing mead, whose strength assailed 
the nostrils of Ilya in his oak on the hillock with 
a power which passed right through him. In a few 
moments she sat down with her husband, and the 
two ate and drank while the laughter of the hero 
shook the trunk of Ilya's oak and the gentle murmur 
of his fair companion's merriment rustled the leaves 
in a tender whisper. 

When Svyatogor had eaten well and drunk better, 
he went into the pavilion, lay down on the broad 
bed and fell fast asleep. But his beautiful wife 
roamed about in the open plain, singing softly to 


herself; and as she walked about she happened to 
look up, and saw Ilya, who was gazing at her so 
steadfastly that he seemed to be nothing but eyes. 

" Come down," cried the hero's wife ; " come 
down, good and stately youth. Come down out of 
the damp oak, or I will tell my husband that you 
have been unkind to me.' 3 Now it was not in 
Ilya's nature to be unkind to any one, so without 
further words he slipped nimbly down the trunk of 
the oak ; and as soon as he touched the lap of moist 
Mother Earth, the woman popped him into the 
pocket of the sleeping hero, and by so doing roused 
the latter from his heavy sleep. 

The hero stretched himself, yawned, and sat up 
blinking, for he was not so young as Ilya, and there- 
fore did not wake so readily. Then he arose, placed 
his wife in the crystal casket, locked it with the golden 
key, mounted upon his horse, and took his way 
towards the Holy Mountains. 

As the hero rode onward his horse began to bend 
at the knees and then to stumble, whereupon 
Svyatogor beat him soundly with a silken whip. 
The animal stopped short, turned his head and 
said to his master in a human voice, " I was proud 
enough to carry a hero and his heroic wife, casket 
and all, but when I am obliged to add another hero 
to my load, it is not surprising if I stumble." 

Svyatogor looked round, and for the first time 
was aware of his bulging pocket. A little further 
investigation showed him that he was carrying a 
fine young man with broad shoulders, on which was 

' " Come down," cried the hero's wife ' 


set the unmistakable head of a hero. In a moment 
he had drawn Ilya from his deep pocket and was 
holding him aloft while he questioned him with 
knitted brows. 

Whence come you, young man ? ' he cried, 
and at the sound of that terrible voice the mountains 
shook, the forests waved, and the river found that 
its usual channel was not steady enough to contain 
it, while it occurred to Ilya that it would be best to 
tell the truth. So he said boldly enough, though his 
position could scarcely be described as dignified : 

' It was the noble lady in the crystal casket who 
bade me come down from the oak, and who placed 
me in the pocket of your hero-ship." Then the 
youth's eyes were filled with terror, for a fierce frown 
suddenly creased the brows of Svyatogor, who turned 
in his saddle, after having seated Ilya before him, 
and hurled the crystal casket into the rushing, rocking 

* Lie there, faithless one," he shouted ; " it was 
surely of little avail to take you out locked up in a 
glass case if you were to speak to the first goodly 
young man you meet." Then with a huge gesture 
of disgust he urged on his steed and took his way 
along the side of a rocky mountain, talking pleasantly 
to Ilya as if nothing had happened out of the ordinary. 
He asked the young man about his parents, his 
home, and the dearest wish of his heart, which he 
found was to meet himself, the famous hero 

Yes, I am he," said the rider as lightly as his huge 


size permitted, " and I would gladly come among 
you people of Holy Russia, but moist Mother Earth 
is too soft to bear me up, and I am forced to ride on 
the rocky crags and high precipices of the great 
mountains which are strong enough to bear the 
weight of myself and my steed. I will take you 
with me to the Holy Mountains, for you are a young 

man after mv own heart." And as thev rode onward 

j j 

he told Ilya how a hero lived and how he did the 
deeds which roused the wonder and the fear of all 

Suddenly Svyatogor said to Ilya, When we 
come to my home, I will present you to my father. 
But before you meet him you must take care to heat 
a piece of iron in the stove, and when he comes with 
outstretched hand to greet you, take further care 
not to place your hand within his own, but let him 
grasp the heated iron." 

Ilya promised to follow the instructions of his 
friend, and before long they came across the craggy 
peaks to the Holy Mountains, and on the summit of 
one of them Ilya saw a wonderful palace of white 
stone. The hero rode forward to the gateway, 
where he was met by his aged father, whose beard 
swept his knees like a snow-drift. " Welcome, my 
dear child," said the old man, to whose tenderness 
the giant on the mighty steed was still a loving 
youngster. Welcome, and thrice welcome ! Have 
you been far afield ? ' 

' I have been in Holy Russia, my father," was 
the reply. " And what saw you in Holy Russia ? " 


asked the old man. " Nothing but melting snow 
and moist land," said Svyatogor, "too moist indeed 
for the feet of my steed. But stay, I did meet with 
some one of note, and I have brought him with me." 

The old man quickly raised his head, but the 
movement was merely one of habit, for his eyes 
were sightless. Sadly he dropped his chin once 
more upon his breast, and said, ' Bring to me the 
hero of Holy Russia that I may greet him." 

In the meantime Ilya had found a piece of iron, 
and having also found a furnace near the gate- way, 
he quickly made the iron red-hot. Then he grasped 
the glowing metal in his hand and went forward to 
greet the blind father of his friend. The old man 
held out his hand, but Ilya did not clasp it. He 
placed in its palm the red-hot iron which the old man 
grasped as if it had been the hand of a friend returned 
after a long journey. As he felt its burning glow 
he said, ' Thy hands are the hands of a hero, O Ilya, 
son of strength. Now you are indeed worthy to 
become the younger brother of Svyatogor. Come 
within the palace of white stone and rest until the 
call comes, which comes to all true men of deeds, to 
sally forth upon yet another journey of adventure." 

So Ilya and his elder brother went into the 
palace of white stone and rested as long as they 
could, which was not really long, for one morning 
the sun shone and each found the other at the gate 
looking with longing eyes upon the world. 

Now as he looked outward, Ilya saw to his 
surprise and pleasure that a horse was feeding near 


the outer wall of the palace of white stone. He 
looked more closely and found to his great delight 
that it was none other than his own good steed 
Cloudfall. Quickly he ran to the horse and gaily 
he greeted it, and before long he was mounted upon 
its back and racing to and fro over the moist grass 
before the palace of white stone. As he reached the 
gate for the third time, he found Svyatogor mounted 
also, and ready to set out with him in search of 
adventure. Then they rode out along the ridge of 
the Holy Mountains, and before long they came to a 
great casket with a lid lying by its side, and upon 
the lid was written the inscription, ' This casket shall 
fit him for whom it has been hewn from the rock." 

The inscription was a plain invitation to one of 
adventurous spirit, and in a moment Ilya had leapt 
from his horse and lay at full length within the 
casket. But it was too long and too wide for him, 
and he rose saying, ' It is not for me that this 
casket was hewn from the rock." 

The casket was meant for me," said Svyatogor, 
quietly stepping into it and lying down. His words 
were true enough, for his heroic body fitted it as if 
he had been measured for it. Take the cover, 
Ilya," he said, " and lay it over me." But his 
younger brother had no desire to perform an entomb- 
ment of this kind and he said : 

I will not lift the cover, elder brother, and shut 
you up in such a manner. Surely you would amuse 
yourself with what is to me a jest of the poorest kind, 
if you would prepare for your burial in this way ! ' 


Svyatogor spoke not a word, but reaching forth 
his hands lifted the lid and covered the casket with 
it. Then he tried to raise it again, but found that it 
was easier to get into such a casket than to get out of it. 
He strove with all his mighty strength to lift the lid, 
but even this was of no avail, and he cried out through 
an aperture which still remained between the cover 
and the side of the casket, ' Alas, my brother ! It 
is clear that Fate, who is stronger than heroes, has 
entangled me at last. I cannot raise the lid. Try to 
lift it and live to say that you have rescued the prince 
of heroes." 

Ilya thereupon put forth all his strength but, 
strong as he was, he could not raise the lid. " Take 
my great battle-sword," said Svyatogor, " and strike a 
blow across the cover. " Ilya grasped the sword , which 
his brother had unbuckled, before he lay down, but 
was not able to raise it from the earth, so great was 
its weight. " I cannot lift it," he said in disgust 
and despair, " to say nothing of wielding it." " Bend 
down to this rift," replied his elder brother, " that 
I may breathe upon you with my heroic breath." 
Ilya obeyed the command, and when Svyatogor had 
breathed warmly upon him, he felt new strength 
rise within him, so that he was three times the man 
he had been. 

He was now able to raise the sword and struck 
the lid of the casket a mighty blow, so that all the 
Holy Mountains re-echoed with the sound. Sparks 
of flame leapt from the lid of the casket, and an 
iron ridge was formed upon the stone in the path of 


that tremendous stroke, so as to strengthen the cover 
rather than weaken it. 

" I stifle, younger brother," cried the imprisoned 
hero. " Try the effect of another blow upon the 
lid of the fatal casket." Then Ilya smote the cover 
lengthwise, and the sound of the blow re-echoed 


more loudly among the Holy Mountains ; but the 
only effect was to raise another ridge of iron upon 
the lid. Again the imprisoned hero spoke im- 

" I die, little brother. Bend down again so that 
I may breathe once more upon you, and this time 
give you all my heroic strength." 

Then Ilya spoke, and as the words came from 
his lips he felt as if a voice within him framed them 
in despite of his own desires. 

" My strength is enough, elder brother ; if I had 
more, then moist Mother Earth would not be able 
to bear me." 

" You have done well, younger brother," said 
the voice of Svyatogor, " in that you have disobeyed 
my last command. Had I breathed upon you again, 
it would have been with the breath of death. And 
now, farewell ! Take my great battle-sword, which 
you have fairly won, but tether my good steed to my 
iron-bound tomb. None but Svyatogor may ride 
that horse." 

Then Svyatogor spoke no more, and stooping to 
the crevice Ilya was no longer able to hear the 
whisper of his breathing. So he bound the good 
steed to the casket, girt the great battle-sword about 


3 1 

his waist, and rode forth upon Cloudfall into the 
open plain. But as he turned away, he saw the 
tears of the imprisoned Svyatogor flowing in a crystal 
stream through the crevice in the iron-bound casket 
on the lonely hills. 




THIS is the story of the first of the nightingales, 
those sweet singers of the evening, each of whom, 
as the old books tell with certainty, sprang from a 
poppy seed. And the sower of the first seeds of 
the blood-red poppy was Ilya the Old Cossack, who 
rode the shaggy bay steed Cloudfall. 

As for Cloudfall, the shaggy bay steed, it is well 
that you should try to picture him to yourselves. 
He had a mane of very great length, and a tail ten 
times as long as his mane, while the shaggy hair of 
his rough coat was of three colours or tints. He 
wore a bridle of leather plaited so as to be of enormous 
strength, twelve saddle-cloths and twelve felts (so 
cold it was in Holy Russia), and over these coverings 
a strong leather saddle bound with metal. He had 
twelve girths made of finest silk, not for display 
and youthful vanity, but for strength and easiness of 
movement. His stirrups were of engraved steel 
brought from Damascus, where the good sword 
blades are marked with strange devices ; the buckles 
were of bronze which moist Mother Earth is not able 
to rust, and which no amount of hard wear can in 



the least affect. Such was Cloudfall the shaggy bay 
steed of Ilya the Old Cossack. 

One Easter morning Ilya took his way to church 
to greet his risen Master ; and as he stood before 
the altar in the warm glow which lighted up the 
sanctuary, he vowed a mighty vow, ' ' I will sing at 
High Mass on this very Easter Day in the royal 
town of Kiev, and I will go to Kiev by the straight 

For a few moments Ilya stood in deep silence 
before the altar, as if pausing to gather strength. 
Then he vowed a second vow, and it was to this 
effect as he took the straight way to the royal town 
of Kiev he would not stain his hand, nor yet the 
blade of his good keen sword with the blood of the 
accursed Tatars, the enemies of Holy Russia. A 
second time he stood in deep silence, as if pausing 
to gather still more strength. Then he vowed a 
third vow with his hand upon his mace of steel, and 
it was to the effect that though he would go by the 
straight way he would not make use of his fiery 

After a third space of silence Ilya left the church 
and came into the courtyard, where his shaggy bay 
steed Cloudfall was awaiting him to take the heroic 
journey to the city of Prince Vladimir, the Royal 
Sun of Kiev. A few wondering peasants saw Ilya 
as he strode across the courtyard, but as soon as he 
was mounted upon Cloudfall they saw him no more, 
so swift was the movement of the shaggy bay steed. 
Their eyes tried to follow his flight for it was no 


gallop but they seemed to see only a smoke-wreath 
upon the open plain, or a swift movement like that 
of a swirl of snow across the wind-swept steppe. 

Over the grass skimmed Cloudfall, and over the 
lakes and rivers, while his long tail streamed behind 
him like that of a comet in the midnight sky ; high 
above the lofty forests he soared, even above the oaks 
which had stood there since the days before history 
dawned, yet he kept lower than the drifting clouds ; 
from mountain summit to mountain summit he 
sprang, and in leaping along the low hill-ranges he 
missed many of the tops in his flight ; and wherever 
his hoofs fell, springs of water gushed forth from 
the rock, but when he alighted on the open plain 
smoke rose beneath his hoofs, wavered for a moment, 
and then ascended in a steady column towards the 
clouds. It was a ride or a flight to be remembered 
for all time, and Ilya himself was not forgetful of 
this. For he stopped his shaggy bay steed near a 
forest, felled two mighty trees with his mace, and 
erected a rough cross on which he carved with his 
keen sword the following inscription : " Ilya the 
Old Cossack rides to Royal Kiev on his first heroic 
quest." Then he went again upon his wonderful 

Now when he drew near to the city of Chernigof, 
he saw before him a great host of Tatars, the enemies 
of Holy Russia, marshalled under three princes, 
each of whom commanded forty thousand men. 
From their crowd of warlike steeds there arose a 
cloud of steam so dense that it hid the sun by day 


and the moon by night. When Ilya saw this great 
host before him he remembered his vows, leapt 
quickly to the earth, and knelt at the right foot of 

' Lend me your aid, my shaggy bay steed," he 
said, and the intelligent animal bowed his head in 
reply, after which he raised it and sniffed the air 
with quivering nostril. For a moment Ilya left his 
side to wrench from moist Mother Earth a ring- 
barked oak which he bound to the left stirrup of his 
shaggy bay steed. Then he tore up another tree by 
the roots, and mounting Cloudfall began to brandish 
it in his right hand. " Any man can vow a vow, he 
said grimly, " even before the high altar, but not 
every man can keep his vow when he has made it ; 
and my vow was to shed no blood with my keen 
sword nor yet to use my fiery darts." 

By this time Cloudfall was again passing through 
the air swifter than a falcon in its flight, though his 
progress was somewhat stayed when he reached the 
outer rim of the watching host. Ilya brandished 
his oak, and bringing it down with one mighty blow 
after another cleared a path through the host as a 
hurricane makes a lane through a forest. Through the 
pathway Cloudfall passed, alighting upon the earth 
again and again, and leaving wherever he touched 
the host a heap of prostrate warriors. So did Ilya 
the Old Cossack pass through the great host of 
Tatars, the enemies of Holy Russia. 

When the hero came to the gates of Chernigof he 
found them strongly barred, and a keen watch kept 


against the armies of the Tatars, who were reported 
to be advancing upon the city. The wall was lofty 
and broad, but not too high for Cloudfall, who 
leapt over it with ease, to the great astonishment of 
the guards and of the leaders who stood on one of 
the towers in earnest council. Ilya alighted in the 
broad courtyard of the church, and entering the holy 
place found the citizens assembled for prayer, which 
they hoped might avert the approaching calamity or 
fortify them for the endurance of a cruel death. 

Then Ilya stood forth amongst them and said 
boldly, " Ye traders of Chernigof, and citizens all, 
why do you pray when the time is come for action ? 
Why do you meet together to bid farewell to the 
white world with all its joys ? ' Then one of the 
merchants, who was very richly dressed, explained 
to Ilya, as if he were quite ignorant of outside 
affairs, how the city was at that moment besieged by 
the Tatars. Ilya made a slight gesture of impatience 
and disgust, " Go out," he said, " upon the broad 
wall of your famous city, and look towards the open 

Then some of the men and a few of the bolder 
maidens went out upon the ramparts, and in the place 
where the Tatar banners had stood like a forest, the 
accursed foes lay in great heaps of slain. Upon this 
the men of the city bowed themselves before Ilya 
and begged for the honour of his name. They also 
besought him to stay with them and be their Tsar, 
and that he would accept at their hands a bowl of 
pure red gold, another of shining silver, and a third 


of fine seed pearls. " Nay, I ask no gifts from you," 
said Ilya, " though I may possibly have earned them, 
nor will I stay to be your Tsar. Go on with your 
lives as of old, my brothers, but grant the favour of 
showing me the straight way to Kiev town." 

Again they bowed before him, and one of them, 
speaking for the others, said, "It is twice as far by 
the circling path as it is by the straight way, but you 
must take the longer journey, for athwart the straight 
way lie three barriers ; and the road is so lonely that 
the grey wolf and the black raven avoid it, for it 
is deserted even by the dead. The first mighty 
barrier is a range of lofty mountains ; the second is 
a rushing river of enormous breadth, bordered by 
the Black Morass ; and the third is Nightingale the 

' His enormous nest is built upon the tops of 
seven oaks which saw the dawn of history. When he 
whistles like a nightingale, roars like a lion, and hisses 
like a serpent, the trees bow themselves to the earth, 
the green leaves wither, and both horse and rider fall 
to the ground as if they were dead." 

This was enough to stir the soul of the heroic Ilya, 
who forthwith mounted his shaggy bay steed Cloud- 
fall, and rode out upon the straight way. In due 
time he came to the lofty mountain range ; but this 
barrier was not likely to prove insurmountable to the 
shaggy bay steed which soared above it like an eagle 
in its flight. Then they came to the broad rushing 
river with the Black Morass by its margin, and Ilya, 
dismounting, wrenched great oak trees from the 


trembling grasp of moist Mother Earth and flung 
them before him with one hand while he led Cloud- 
fall over these bridges which he had made with the 
other. Soon they came to the broad water, and when 
Ilya had mounted, the shaggy bay steed cleared its 
, rushing current in a single leap. 

At last they came to the third barrier, no less 
than Nightingale the Robber, who was known also 
as the Magic Bird. As Ilya drew near to his oak 
trees, Nightingale thrust his head out of the nest 
and sent forth tongues of flame and showers of sparks 
from his mouth and nostrils ; but this terrible sight 
had no effect upon the stout heart of the heroic 
Ilya. Nightingale the Robber therefore began to 
sing like a bird, varying this entertainment with the 
roar of a lion and the spiteful hiss of a dragon ; 
and at last the combination of sounds was too much 
even for Cloudfall. The shaggy bay steed began to 
tremble with great violence, and then fell upon his 
knees, whereupon Ilya proceeded to beat him without 

You grass-bag," he cried in his anger, ' you 
wolf -carrion, have you never passed through a 
gloomy forest and heard the song of a bird, the roar 
of a wild beast, and the hiss of a serpent ? See how 
easily I shall overcome the Magic Bird ! ' 

Then Ilya went up to a willow tree that overhung 
a brook, broke off a twig, and fitted it to his bow, in 
order that he might keep his vow to abstain from 
using his fiery darts. And as he drew his bow-string 
he cried, " Fly, dart, fly ! Pierce the left eye of 


Nightingale the Robber, and come out at his right 


Swish ! went the magic dart. Cloudfall rose to 
his feet, and Nightingale the Robber fell from his 
nest in the old oaks and dumped down upon the lap 
of moist Mother Earth like an enormous sack of wheat. 
Then Ilya the Old Cossack lifted the pestilent thief 
from the ground by his yellow curling hair, bound 
him securely to his stirrup, and went on his way 
once more. 

By and by they came to the palace of the Magic 
Bird, where he used to retire with his spoils which 
he had won in the forest. It was built on seven 
pillars, and had a courtyard surrounded by an iron 
paling on each spike of which was the head of a 
luckless hero, for many brave men had tried to do 
the deed which Ilya was now performing. Round 
about the house were the greenest of gardens with 
loveliest flowers of every hue, and in the midst of 
these gardens was an orchard with heavily laden fruit 
trees. From the latticed casements of the palace 
looked forth the children of the Magic Bird, and 
when they saw Ilya approaching on his shaggy bay 
steed they cried out together, " See, Mother, here 
comes our Father leading a man at his stirrup. 
Shall w r e have the captive for dinner ? ' 

But Elena, one of the children of the Magic 
Bird, had only one eye and therefore was a witch ; 
and when she looked out from her own particular 
latticed casement she saw what had really happened 
and spoke the truth. " Nay, children," she cried, 

Nightingale the Robber fell from his nest in the old oaks 


" it is Ilya the Old Cossack on his shaggy bay steed 
Cloudfall, and he rides towards us, bringing our 
Father as a prisoner." 

" Crick ! Crock ! Crack ! ' cried the children in a 
croaking chorus ; "we will at once change ourselves 
into ravens and rend that peasant hero in pieces 
with our beaks of iron. Then shall the fragments 
of his white body be scattered on the bosom of moist 
Mother Earth." But Nightingale the Robber, who 
was not yet dead, shouted out a command that no 
harm was to be done to Ilya the Old Cossack. This 
order, however, had no effect upon the one-eyed 
daughter, who ran quickly into the courtyard, tore 
up a heavy steel beam from the threshold, and raising 
it aloft, hurled it at Ilya with all her strength. 

So fierce was the attack of the one-eyed witch- 
daughter of Nightingale the Robber, that even Ilya, 
whose saddle-seat was so secure, wavered for a 
moment, and it was only with great difficulty and 
much skill that he was able to avoid the full force 
of the angry blow. Then he leapt lightly from his 
shaggy bay steed and, remembering his vow, raised 
his right foot and caught the witch with the full force 
of his outstretched toe. Up she went into the air, 
higher than the height of a great cathedral, higher 
than the cross upon its topmost dome, and then she 
fell down with a bony rattle against the rear wall of 
the courtyard, and her skin burst with a sharp 

" Fools all ! " shouted Nightingale the Robber. 
" Fools now and always ! Fetch from the cellar 


a heaped-up waggon-load of red gold, another of 
white silver, and a third of fine seed pearls. Give 
all these treasures to Ilya the Old Cossack, and to 
Cloudfall, his shaggy bay steed, and see if these fine 
gifts will not induce him to set me free in a trice. 
Ha, ha ! " 

But Nightingale the Robber chuckled too soon, 
for Ilya said in a voice that showed no doubtfulness, 
' If I should plant my lofty spear in the bosom of 
moist Mother Earth, and if you were to heap up 
about it red gold, white silver, and fine seed pearls 
until not even the sharp tip of it could be seen, yet 
would I not set you free, Nightingale the Robber, 
you pestilent thief and father of stealing. You shall 
come with me forthwith to the glorious town of Kiev, 
and there you shall receive such forgiveness as you 

Then Ilya mounted Cloudfall once more, and the 
shaggy bay steed began to prance while Nightingale 
the Robber began to dance ; and thus prancing 
and dancing they came to Kiev, the city of Prince 

When they arrived the Prince was in the cathedral, 
and hearing this, Ilya went at once to the sacred 
courtyard, where he fastened Cloudfall to a golden 
ring in a tall carven pillar, and said to him, ' Keep 
watch and ward upon Nightingale the Robber, 
Cloudfall, my faithful shaggy bay steed, and see that 
he escapes not from my stirrup of damascened 
steel." Then to the Magic Bird he spoke, " Pre- 
sume not, Nightingale the Robber, to depart from the 


side of my good charger, for there is no place in all 
the white world where you will be hidden from my 

Then in fulfilment of his first vow Ilya went to the 
church for the Easter mass ; and when he saw Prince 
Vladimir among the worshippers, he made obeisance 
to him, but not before he had devoutly crossed 
himself and done reverence to North, South, East, and 
West. When the mass had been celebrated, Prince 
Vladimir sent to summon the stranger hero to his 
Easter feast ; and obedient to the invitation which 
was really a command, Ilya went to the royal palace, 
where the Prince asked him to which horde and 
country he belonged, and who were his parents. 

" Sire," said Ilya, " I am the honourable son of 
honourable parents who reap their own meadow to 
feed their own beasts in their own farm, surrounded 
by the pine forest of Murom. Now as I greeted my 
Risen Lord at matins this morning, I vowed to come 
hither by the straight way, and I came." 

The speaker ceased, and the group of heroes, 
warriors, notabilities, and fair ladies who stood near 
the Prince stared at him in unbelieving astonish- 

" Good youth," said Prince Vladimir, " you are 
fair to look upon, but none the less you must be a 
son of the Father of Lies. Why, the straight way has 
been lost for thirty years, and all men know of it is 
that athwart it lie great barriers. There are in the 
plains great hordes of accursed Tatars, the enemies 
of Holy Russia ; then there is a broad rushing river 


bordered by the Black Morass ; and, last of all, among 
the shining birches, on the top of seven great oaks 
which saw the dawn of history, is raised the nest of 
Nightingale the Robber. Moreover, that Magic Bird 
hath nine strong sons and eight ugly daughters, of 
whom one has only a single eye, and is therefore a 
witch. Now Nightingale the Robber hath per- 
mitted neither horse nor man to pass by him for 
thirty years." 

' Nay, sire," said Ilya with perfect calm, " I did 
indeed come by the straight way, and Nightingale 
the Robber now sitteth as a prisoner securely bound 
within the sacred court of the holy temple, where all 
who thieve must be bound hand and foot." 

Now the astonishment and curiosity which fell 
upon the company at this announcement was so 
great that it overcame the hunger of the lords and 
ladies, who forgot also their courtly dignity as they 
scrambled out from the palace to see the wonder, or 
at least to test the truth of Ilya's words. But Prince 
Vladimir and Princess Apraxia went out slowly upon 
the railed balcony. 

And there they saw the wonder for themselves 
Nightingale the Robber sitting securely bound to 
the steel stirrup of Cloudfall, the shaggy bay steed, 
with one eye fixed on Kiev city and the other on 
far-distant Chernigof, according to the habit he had 
acquired when awaiting the sallies of champions 
from those two cities within the security of his lofty 

Then said Prince Vladimir, full of wonder mixed 


with curiosity, Whistle, Nightingale the Robber, 
roar like a lion, and hiss like a serpent." But the 
Magic Bird replied with a strange smile which had a 
long way to travel across his face from eye to eye. 
" I am not your prisoner, Prince Vladimir, and do 
not eat from your bountiful hand. However, bring 
me a bowl of wine, for I am plaguily thirsty, and then 
we shall see what will happen." 

" Give him a bowl of green wine," said Ilya to 
the waiting attendants, " a large bowl, capable of 
accommodating a bucket and a half. And bring a 
large cake of fine wheat flour, for the mouth of 
the Magic Bird is parched, and his whistle, roar, 
and hiss will not be worth hearing if he is not 

Then Vladimir himself came forward bringing 
three large bowls, one of green wine, the drink of 
princes, a second of vodka, the drink of peasants, and 
a third of sweet mead, the drink of fair ladies ; and 
Nightingale the Robber drained each of the bowls at 
a draught. Thereupon Ilya commanded the Magic 
Bird to whistle, roar and hiss, but to do so under 
his breath lest harm should come to the royal party, 
of whom the ladies were now preparing to hide 
behind the gentlemen, while the gentlemen were 
trying to persuade the ladies that it was very uncourtly 
to stand before such peerless beauties. 

Then that wicked pestilent thief began to smile 
from one eye to the other, and it seemed as if a 
stormy gleam of light passed across the open steppe 
from Chernigof to Kiev ; and out of malice of which 


his black heart was full, he gave his entertainment 
at full strength. 

At the sounds which he made all the ancient 
palaces in the royal city cracked, tottered, and tumbled 
to the ground ; the new palaces rocked, and only 
kept their upright position with a great effort. The 
roofs of all the poorer houses moved from their 
places and fell into the streets, while the walls 
remained, for they were of a tumble-down character 
in their ordinary state, and not knowing which way 
to fall decided to remain as they were. Moist Mother 
Earth quivered like a man with the ague, the horses 
of the heroes stampeded from the palace stables, 
the beautiful young ladies hid themselves in corners, 
and the gay youths were so terrified that they ran 
into other corners far away, where, of course, they 
could not comfort them. Ilya leaned over the 
balcony and caught up Prince Vladimir under one 
arm and the Princess Apraxia under the other in 
order to protect them ; yet the Prince fell into a 
swoon from which he did not emerge for three 

Then said Ilya, son of strength, in the mightiness 
of his wrath, " For this base deed of thine, Nightin- 
gale the Robber, thou shalt die ! ' 

" Spare a few of his family," pleaded Prince 
Vladimir, who had now recovered, and who had 
never been of a vindictive disposition. ' Spare me 
myself," begged the' Magic Bird, * and you shall 
have all my money to build a monastery." 

" Nay," said Ilya, <c I will sweep away his pestilent 


brood and scatter his bones to the winds. As for his 
ill-gotten gold, no monastery would stand or receive 
a blessing which was built with it." 

Thereupon he took Nightingale the Robber in 
his strong white hands and led him far out upon the 
open plain. There he fitted a burning arrow to his 
stout bow, for his vow no longer held him, seeing 
that he had come to Kiev by the straight way, and 
shot the fiery dart into the black breast of the Magic 
Bird. After that he struck off his pestilent head and 
scattered his bones to the winds. Then he sought 
out his family and scattered their bones to the winds 
also, and mounting Cloudfall, his shaggy bay steed, 
he went once more to Prince Vladimir. 

By this time the royal company had somewhat 
recovered their composure, and in order to hide their 
confusion were busily conversing about the day before 
yesterday. When Ilya arrived they were seated at the 
white tables eating savoury viands from the board 
and drinking green wine and sweet mead ; and they 
complimented Ilya very prettily, as soon as he had 
washed himself. When the feast was over, the Prince 
gave the hero the supreme honour of ever henceforth 
styling himself Ilya of Murom the Old Cossack, for 
it was reckoned the highest honour that a hero 
should take his title from the land on which he was 
born, especially if it was owned by his father ; and 
Ilya, being a true gentleman, valued this distinction 
infinitely higher than a heaped-up waggon-load of 
red gold, another of white silver, and a third of fine 
seed pearls. 




As for those bones of the Magic Bird which were 
scattered to the winds, as they fell to earth they 
became seeds of the blood -red poppy, from the 
flowers of which came the first sweet whistling 
nightingales who know nothing of the roar of the 
lion or the hiss of the serpent. 

-'- * 



ONE day Ilya rode his shaggy bay steed Cloudfall 
across the open steppe ; and as he went slowly 
onward he was thinking deeply, for he had performed 
many deeds of the greatest valour, and was now 
wondering greatly what he should do next. 

" I have visited many lands," he said in a brooding 
voice, " and have seen many strange people, but for 
a long time I have not visited Kiev, where I took 
Nightingale the Robber as a prisoner firmly bound 
to my stirrup of bright steel. I will go now to Kiev 
once more, so that I may see what is happening in 
the household of Prince Vladimir." 

Raising his head and smiling quietly like a man 
filled with a secret purpose, he gave Cloudfall the 
rein, and before he could say " SVYATOGOR " he was 
in the city of Kiev, where it was told him by a cook 
whom he met hurrying across the street that Prince 
Vladimir was holding a merry feast. 

Ilya at once tethered Cloudfall to the carven 
pillar in the cathedral court and took his way on foot 
to the banquet -hall of Prince Vladimir, which he 
entered without invitation, knowing that all way- 



farers were welcome to the board of the hospitable 

As soon as he had passed the threshold, Ilya 
bowed to North, South, East, and West, and then to 
Prince Vladimir and Princess Apraxia in particular, 
thinking that the royal couple would surely have a 
clear remembrance of all the wonderful things that 
had taken place on his last visit to their town. But 
neither the Prince nor the Princess knew him again, 
and it was as a perfect stranger that Vladimir addressed 

" What is your name and to which horde do you 
belong ? ' he asked ; " and have you any title of 
degree ? ' 

" Fair Sun Vladimir," said Ilya, who was secretly 
taken aback at his reception, but determined not to 
show it, "I am called Nikita from beyond the 

" Welcome, my brave and merry little fellow," 
said the Prince with great heartiness ; 'sit down at 
our board and eat and drink freely. You will find 
a little room at the lower end of yonder table. I 
am sorry there is not more room, but your sharp 
eyes will see at once that I feast to-day a noble 
company of princes, statesmen, wealthy merchants, 
and bold warrior-maids as well as sixty great Russian 
heroes whose adventures have been many." 

Now Ilya of Murom the Old Cossack did not 
relish the tone of the Prince's speech, and felt it a 
deep humiliation that the conqueror of Nightingale 
the Robber should break the royal bread at the 


lower end of the table. His anger rose, and raising 
his head he cried : 

" Fair Sun Vladimir, do you think to place me 
among the crows while you feast with the eagles ? 
Nay ! I will not eat bread with those beneath my 

Such a speech from a man who had made no 
claim to higher rank than that of Nikita from beyond 
the Forest, who was clearly a nobody, roused in 
turn the anger of the Prince. He sprang nimbly to 
his feet, his face as black as a thunder-cloud, and 
roared like a crowded den of wild beasts : 

" Ho, there, ye mighty heroes of Holy Russia ! 
Will you hear yourselves classed with carrion crows ? 
Seize the stranger, but take care that three of you 
hold each arm, hale him to the courtyard and 
strike off his head." Then there was a great com- 
motion, and the cooks began to wring their hands, for 
they knew that if they did not keep the food hot 
while the quarrel was proceeding, the Prince would 
need new cooks on the following day. 

Three heroes grasped the right arm of Ilya and 
three heroes grasped his left arm. He waved his 
right hand and three heroes fell breathless to the 
floor of red brick ; then he waved his left hand and 
three heroes fell on top of them. Thereupon Vladi- 
mir roared out a command that twelve fresh heroes 
should seize him, but these champions fared like 
their fellows. Then twelve more rose before him 
and six more behind ; and these met the same fate 
as the rest. 


Meanwhile the cooks had been able to snatch 
away the dishes from beneath the nose of the angry 
Prince and were now hurrying away to place them 
in the ovens. Then they heaved in unison such a 
sigh of relief that the fire burned as brightly as it 
burns upon a frosty night. 

Ilya strode forth from the banquet-hall and the 
anger burned fiercely within his breast. When he 
reached the courtyard he turned about and fitted 
an arrow to his bow. As he drew the cord he 
whispered to the shaft, ' Fly, my dart, about the 
princely towers and strike off the spires and crosses 
of gold from the royal palace." Off went the arrow, 
but it did not travel by a straight road. It made a 
circuitous tour of the pinnacles and domes of the 
stately building, and as it went on its way spire after 
spire and cross after cross tumbled down upon the 
pavement. Ilya gathered up these golden trophies, 
went to the tavern in the market-place and ordered 
the landlord to bring out his best green wine, for 
which he would pay with the royal spires and 
crosses. Then he stood in the doorway and invited 
all the loafers of the market-place to come and drink 
the health of Prince Vladimir, who had been good 
enough, as he grimly remarked, to provide the means 
of drinking it." 

For once the loafers hesitated to lift the green 
wine to their lips. What will the Prince do to us 
in the morning," they asked, ' when he finds that 
we have drunk up all his golden spires and crosses ? ' 

" Drink, my men," said Ilya. " To-morrow I 


myself will reign as Prince in Kiev town, and ye 
shall be my chiefs." Then they drank and drank 
again ; but Ilya of Murom did not put the bowl to 
his lips in such company, for he merely meant to 
use these men in his determination to win respect 
and ample apology from the Prince. 

In the meantime Prince Vladimir sat at the 
board with the hungry revellers about him ; but he 
was so deeply wrapped in thought that he did not 
even notice that the cooks had taken away the dishes. 

Who is this who has come to town ? ' he asked 
moodily. Then a young nobleman, whose name was 
Nikitich, sprang to his nimble feet and said, " I 
have met all the mighty heroes of Holy Russia save 
one, and that one is Ilya of Murom, who, I have 
heard, will not die in battle. This wonderful visitor 
is no Nikita from beyond the Forest. It must be 
none other than Ilya of Murom the Old Cossack. 
I fear, my Prince, with all respect to your Highness, 
that you did not know how to pay worthy honour to 
your guest either at his coming or his going." 

The Prince's face lighted up, for the young 
nobleman who had spoken was the only man in the 
whole of the company who could read and write, 
and on that account was privileged to speak his 
mind when his fellows feared for their heads. 

Whom shall we send," asked Prince Vladimir, 

* to invite the hero to our banquet ? ' (At these 

words some of the cooks hurried off to prepare fresh 

food.) ' My royal chamberlain will not know how 

to address him, and my chief page is like a peacock 


-only fit to strut about in the sun among the women. 
Go you, Nikitich, for you can read and write and 
therefore have supernatural wisdom. Bow down 
before him, with your forehead upon moist Mother 
Earth, and invite him by his name and title thrice 
repeated to honour us with his presence at a worship- 
ful feast. 

" Say that I did not, to my lasting sorrow, 
recognise him when I placed him at the lower end of 
the board, but that now I entreat him to honour us 
with his truly remarkable presence. Tell him that 
I bear no ill-will for what has passed, and that instead 
of sitting at the lower end of the board though 
there is now more room in that quarter - - he shall 
sit in the great corner near to the Princess Apraxia 

Now Nikitich, having learnt to read and write, 
did not act upon rash impulse, but stood for a few 
moments looking supernaturally wise and weighed 
the matter with the utmost circumspection. " Shall 
I go ? ' he asked himself. " It may mean sudden 
death for me at the hands of Ilya. On the other 
hand, it will certainly mean slow death at the hands 
of Prince Vladimir if I do not obey. Perhaps I had 
better go." Then with a low bow to the Prince and 
another to the Princess, he left the banquet-hall with 
the step of resolution. 

In a few moments he came to the tavern where 
he saw Ilya of Murom the Old Cossack sitting grimly 
watching the loafers while they drank the health of 
Prince Vladimir. " It will be better," said Nikitich 


to himself, " if I come upon him from behind, for 
then I shall be able to deliver my message without 
being put in deadly fear by his eyes of terror." So 
he approached Ilya from behind as he sat there and, 
placing his hands upon the hero's mighty shoulders, 
told him all that Prince Vladimir had said ; but 
being able to read and write, and therefore full of 
supernatural wisdom, he missed out the sentence 
about the Prince bearing no ill-will for what had 

Had he been able to watch the face of Ilya as he 
spoke the Prince's message, Nikitich would have 
seen a bright gleam of laughter steal into the terrible 
eyes of the Old Cossack. But when the speech was 
over, Ilya did not turn his head. "It is well for 
you, young Nikitich," he said grimly, " that you 
come upon me from behind. If you had approached 
me from before, your body would have been dust 
and ashes before now. Go at once and deliver to 
Prince Vladimir the following message in answer to 
his own : 

' Let strict orders be issued to all the inn-keepers 
of Kiev and Chernigof that they invite all who care 
to come to quaff green wine at the expense of Prince 
Vladimir ; and for those who care not for green 
wine let vodka, the drink of the peasants, be provided ; 
while those who love neither shall drink sweet mead 
beloved of fair ladies and their squires. By this all 
men shall know that Ilya of Murom the Old Cossack 
who led captive Nightingale the Robber is now come 
to town. Let the Prince also prepare an honourable 


banquet and reserve the great corner near the high 
table for me. 

" Otherwise," continued Ilya, at last turning his 
head and fixing his heroic eyes on the young man 
of supernatural wisdom who could both read and 

write, " otherwise " But the ambassador of Prince 

Vladimir did not stay to enquire what would happen. 
The sight of Ilya's countenance was enough for him, 
and only the drunken loafers heard the completion 
of the hero's threat " the Prince shall reign in Kiev 
no longer than to-morrow's morn." 

Then quickly, quickly, very very quickly, and 
with lightning speed, ran the wise young man to 
Prince \ladimir, and quickly, quickly, very very 
quickly, and with lightning speed, were the * re- 
quests ' of Ilya complied with. Great crowds 
drew to the tavern, though they came not to drink 
but to see the Old Cossack. They were however 
disappointed, for Ilya had gone, post-haste upon the 
heels of the envoy, to take his place at the banquet, 
taking his invitation for granted. But being a 
true gentleman, he bowed on entering the hall to 
the North, South, East, and West, and then in 
particular to Prince Vladimir and Princess Apraxia. 

Vladimir rose quickly to his feet and cried with 
hands extended, " Ho, there, Ilya of Murom the Old 
Cossack. Here is a place for you beside me, in the 
great corner near the stove. Or if it please you to sit 
elsewhere it shall be as you will." So Ilya sat in the 
great corner, and before long the cooks and the serving 
men were passing to and fro like a whirlwind. 


Now, as they sat at meat and as the wine pails 
freely passed, there happened a very great wonder ; 
for Prince Vladimir turned to pledge Ilya of Murom 
the Old Cossack, and behold ! he no longer sat in the 
great corner. The Prince rubbed his eyes in astonish- 
ment, but the Princess, with a somewhat scornful 
smile, told him to look for Ilya under the banquet 
table. Then they looked, but Ilya was not there. 
So the Prince sent out messengers upon the broad 
road which ran for fort}- furlongs to the city of 
Galich ; but Ilya was not upon the broad road, and 
the only man they met was an old pilgrim who was 
making his way slowly and painfully to Kiev town. 
His smock was tattered with use, and a ragged girdle 
was bound about his waist. His cap was heavy 
with moisture, his feet were covered with rotten 
straw, and he leaned so heavily upon a crooked staff 
that the moist earth squirted out beneath his step. 

The ancient pilgrim entered the town and went 
to the chief inn, where he asked courteously enough 
for a pail and a half of green wine. You old grey 
dog," said the inn-keeper, " we do not trust such as 
you, nor can we give you green wine without your 
money." Then the old man took from his neck 
a cross of gold, wonderfully chased, of great weight, 
and clearly of as great antiquity. Take this cross in 
payment," he said, but not one of the men dared to 
handle it. Then seeing that the old man was faint 
for want, the peasants about the place gave each a 
kopeck that he might have his wine ; and when it 
was brought to him he drank it in a draught and a 


half and at a breath and a half. Having done this, 
he climbed upon the stove, lay down as if he were in 
his mother's cottage, and fell fast asleep. 

Very early in the morning, as the warm red sun 
arose, the old pilgrim descended from the stove, 
went down to the cellars, burst open the door with 
his foot, took a cask of wine under each arm and 
rolled a third before him with his right great toe. 
So he came out to the green meadow and then into 
the market-place, where he shouted out, in a voice 
wonderfully strong for so aged a pilgrim, " Ho, ye 
peasants of the village, come to the old man's feast." 
By this time, however, the men from the tavern were 
upon him ; but though there were many of them 
they could not take the wine from the old man, so 
they went to make their complaint to Prince Vladimir. 

' Bring him before me," said the royal judge, 
and they did so. Then the ancient pilgrim raised 
his eyes, and by means of the smile in the depths of 
them Vladimir knew him for Ilya of Murom the Old 

' Plague upon my love of fun," Said Ilya, ' but 
these thick-headed varlets are easily imposed upon. 
Let me pay them for my fun and, Prince, give me 
work worthy of a hero." 

The time demands a hero's help," said Prince 
Vladimir, ' for my royal city goes in fear by day 
and passes sleepless nights in terror for Falcon the 
Hunter, who rides the heavens and can pass over the 
loftiest barriers to hurl his fiery darts upon every 
golden pinnacle which rears upward to the sky. 


Make a barrier, Ilya, upon the road by which he 
comes, and check him, if you can, with fiery shafts 
from your magic bow." 

Then Ilya's eyes gleamed with pleasure, and he 
called for six of the mightiest heroes to help him to 
form a barrier in the path of Falcon the Hunter; 
and among the six was Nikitich, the young man of 
supernatural wisdom who could both read and 
write, as well as Vaska Longskirt, who was very brave 
but hampered in his fighting by his voluminous coat 
in which he defied the white world. The seven 
made a strong barrier on the road by which Falcon 
the Hunter took his flight, so strong that no horseman 
ever so swift could gallop by, nor wayfarer circum- 
vent it ; no wild beast could break it, and if a raven- 
ing eagle or carrion crow soared above it the fiery 
darts of Ilya brought it down in a shower of feathers 
and a rain of blood. " Surely/' said Princess 
Apraxia, whose bright eyes always closed involuntarily 
as Falcon the Hunter was seen riding upon the clouds, 
" we shall be safe from the horror that stalks in the 
darkness by reason of the barrier of Ilya of Murom." 

But late that night young Falcon the Hunter 
passed by, leaping from one low black cloud to 
another, and with a dazzling smile scorning the barrier 
of the seven heroes. In the early dawn Ilya went 
forth and traced the footsteps of his black horse a 
blasted pine tree with its heart scorched to charcoal, 
a tall tower, and several golden pinnacles of the royal 
pavilion lying upon the bosom of moist Mother 
Earth. He went back to his brother heroes. " While 


we slept until the white dawn," he cried in a loud 
voice, " Falcon the Hunter swept by in his malignity. 
What a barrier is this of ours ! What a fortress ! 
Let us arm ourselves, my friends, and go out upon 
the steppe to seek this rash intruder whose malignant 
glance causes the Princess Apraxia to close her eyes 
in fear." Then they sat down in a circle to hold a 
wise council, having no immediate fear of Falcon 
the Hunter, who never came to the city of many 
golden pinnacles while the sun shone broadly upon it. 
Whom shall we send against Falcon the 
Hunter ? ' asked Ilya, who did not intend to go 
himself until the others had failed. ' It is of little 
use sending Vaska Longskirt, for he will get en- 
tangled in the tails of his coat. Nikitich must go, 
and if he finds that Falcon the Hunter is a Russian 
he shall swear eternal brotherhood with him on 
behalf of all of us. But if he finds he is an infidel 
he shall challenge him to mortal combat." 

Then Nikitich sprang to his nimble feet, saddled 
and mounted his good steed, and rode forth to the 
place where a great river met the dark-grey sea. 
As he looked along the straight road he saw a rider 
before him who sat upon his horse with the assurance 
of youth and victory. His black steed was full of 
mettle and fresh from the untamed steppe. At 
each leap he covered a furlong, and the marks 
which the hoofs of his horse made upon the bosom 
of moist Mother Earth were as large as a ram 
or a full-grown sheep. Flames flashed from the 
mouth of the steed, lighting up the heavy clouds 


which hung over the dark - grey sea, sparks of 
blue fire showered from his nostrils, and from his 
erected ears smoke curled in tiny wreaths which 
quivered and then vanished in mid - air. The 
helmet on the head of the hero glowed like fire, and 
blue rays of light darted from ornaments on his 
doubtlet, from his pointed spurs and his stirrups of 
bright steel. At his left stirrup ran a swift grey- 
hound, and a fire-eating dragon was chained to the 
right which sang and whistled with a strange music 
as the horse and its rider passed on towards the dark- 
grey sea. From shoulder to shoulder hopped the 
clear-eyed bird from which Falcon the Hunter took 
his name, and as it passed it plucked at the long 
yellow locks of the rider, which streamed upon his 
shoulders like tongues of living flame. 

The knight sat easily upon the back of his 
strange steed, and as he rode he amused himself by 
hurling his bright steel mace towards the lowering 
clouds which hung threatening over the dark-grey 
sea. It flashed across the cloudy barrier, making a 
bright reflection in the heaving water, and then 
returned obedient to the hand of Falcon the Hunter 
without touching either sea or land in its flight. 
As he played, Falcon the Hunter spoke to his wonder- 
ful mace : " Lightly as I now whirl this mace 
aloft, even so lightly will I twirl Ilya of Murom the 
Old Cossack." 

Then Nikitich called out, " Ho, there, Falcon 
the Hunter ! Have you no fear of our barrier ? ' 

Falcon replied over his shoulder, " 'Tis not for 



youths even of supernatural wisdom to pursue me 
in the open plain. It is high time that you were 
hiding from me in the deep depths of a feather-bed/' 

When Falcon the Hunter spoke, the waters of 
the sea were troubled, flecks of foam appeared upon 
the deep, and the shallows were choked with sand. 
The charger of Nikitich trembled sorely and fell 
down upon its knees, while its rider sank upon the 
bosom of moist Mother Earth, where he lay as if in 
a trance for the space of three full hours. When he 
awoke, the sun was shining brightly, the waves upon 
the ocean danced in glee, and the tumbled rack of 
grey clouds on the horizon was all dispersed and 
scattered. But Falcon the Hunter was no longer to 
be seen, for with all his terrors he was afraid of the 
jolly sun with his broad and welcoming smile. 

Nikitich now mounted his charger and rode off 
at once to report to Ilya the Old Cossack. The old 
man listened quietly and then said with a sigh, 
" I grow old, and yet there is none coming after me 
to take my place." Then he saddled his good 
charger Cloudfall and sprang upon his back without 
making any use of the stirrups. On the saddle-strap 
hung his war club, mighty in weight ; on his left 
hip rested his sharp sword and in his hand he held 
his silken whip ; but for this encounter he placed 
most reliance upon the fiery darts in the quiver upon 
his broad back and in the strength of his mighty 
bow. Thus armed he rode forth into the darkness 
of the mountains, where he found Falcon the Hunter 
leaping from summit to summit and rousing the 


cavernous echoes with his fear - compelling voice. 
But neither the flashing flames nor the rolling angry 
accents struck terror to the heart of Ilya, for with a 
quick movement he shifted his quiver, which was 
open at both ends, so that the points of the darts 
pointed heavenwards, and from these points streamed 
a blue radiance which enveloped the form of the 
hero like a protecting halo. 

Above the noise of the voice of Falcon the Hunter 
was heard the voice of the heroic Ilya. * Ho there ! ' 
he cried, " Thief, dog, braggart ! Why have you 
passed our barrier without doing reverence to me 
or asking my leave ? ' When the Hunter heard 
this challenge he turned and rode at Ilya, and for a 
moment, though only for a moment, the heart of 
the hero died within him. But with a tighten- 
ing of the strap of that wonderful quiver, so that 
even in the fight his fiery darts should point heaven- 
wards, he rushed into the fray. First they fought 
with their maces until these snapped short at the 
hilt, but neither fighter was wounded in the least. 
Then their swords flashed fire until both were 
splintered, but still neither fighter was wounded in 
the least. Next they fought with their spears until 
both were shattered, and even yet neither fighter 
was wounded in the least. Last of all they lighted 
down upon the ground and fought hand to hand. 

All day they fought, till stormy even, till black 
midnight, till the grey dawn, and so they did the 
second day, and likewise the third. Then Ilya 
waved his right hand, and his left foot slipped 


from under him. Down he fell like a stack of 
hay, but as he fell he was able to move his quiver 
so that the fiery darts with their streaming blue fire 
pointed directly heavenwards. As he lay there 
Falcon the Hunter planted himself upon his breast 
and struck at him with a flashing dagger of steel. 
But the blow fell upon the upturned points of those 
wonderful darts and spent itself on the broad bosom 
of moist Mother Earth. 

" See ! ' cried Ilya with a grim laugh. " It was 
foretold of me that I should not die in battle. Oh, 
brave good youth, tell me from what horde you 
come and who were your parents." 

" It is time," growled Falcon the Hunter, " that 
you should shave your head and go to a monastery." 
At this taunt the heart of Ilya grew hot and his blood, 
still youthful, boiled within him. With a mighty 
blow of his fist he struck Falcon on his black breast, 
hurling him skywards, though not so high as the 
heavy clouds which lowered above the heroic fight. 
When the Hunter fell once more, Ilya sprang to his 
nimble feet and sat in his turn upon the breast of 
his enemy. 

" Tell me now, good youth," he said, " the name 
of thy land, thy horde, and thy father." 

" When I sat upon thy breast," growled Falcon 
the Hunter, " I did not enquire of thee thy land, 
thy horde, and thy parentage, for these things con- 
cern not me, the enemy of all mankind. And if I 
sat upon it again I would pierce your bosom, pluck 
out your heart and examine it in mere curiosity, and 


then scatter the fragments of your white body over 
the plain, to be torn by the grey wolf and picked by 
the black crows." 

Then Ilya asked his enemy no more questions 
but drew forth his shining dagger of steel ; and at the 
sight of this gleaming weapon the heart of Falcon 
the Hunter sank within his breast and he gave the 
answer required of him : 

" I come from far across the sea, from the palace 
of grey stone where the sun has no power to enter, 
and my mother was the warrior- queen Zlatigorka. 
The name of my father I do not know. When I 
left the palace of grey stone my mother, who now is 
gentle, told me to meet Ilya of Murom the Old 
Cossack if I could, and having met him to dismount 
from my horse and do reverence to him, touching my 
forehead upon the bosom of moist Mother Earth." 

Then the fierce eyes of Ilya grew soft with com- 
passion, and his mind went back to the far-off day 
when he crossed the deep-blue sea in the strength 
of his manhood to see the palace of grey stone and 
to talk with the warrior-queen who ruled there ; 
for he had vowed that he would win the love of that 
brave Princess and take her as his bride. Now, 
being a hero, and the maiden a right worthy mate 
for him, he could not hope, nor would he care, to 
win the Princess except he had first proved that he 
was stronger than she ; and for a long time the two 
had striven day after day until at times their hearts 
were sick of the eternal conflict, yet neither could 
bring it to an end. Then at last the warrior-queen 



had weakened and had yielded, and had found more 
joy in yielding than in conquest ; and Ilya had 
given her his golden ring set with a ruby red as a 
flaming heart, while she had given him a wondrous 
cross of gold to wear upon his heroic breast ; and 
the two had lived in the palace of grey stone until 
a son was born to them and the fighting queen had 
forgotten her weapons and her warrior strength 
in her motherhood. Then Ilya had been called 
away on one of his many quests, and the boy had 
grown up without his heroic guidance to become a 
scourge to his gentle mother and to all mankind. 
And as he thought on these matters, the heart of 
Ilya was saddened beyond measure, and stooping 
over Falcon the Hunter he took him by his white 
hands, kissed his lips and called him his son, weeping 
greatly as he looked upon him. Then raising his 
hands he blessed him and said : 

' Ride, my son, to the margin of the waters, 
and then cross the grey sea until you come to the 
palace of grey stone and to your lady mother who 
lives only in her memories. Greet her lovingly 
from me, and say that Ilya of Murom the Old Cossack 
keeps her ever in his golden heart." 

Then Falcon the Hunter rose to his feet and 
prepared to do his father's bidding. But when he 
came to the porch of the palace of grey stone these 
were the words he uttered : 

; Ho, there, bold and evil woman ! Come forth ! 
Was it indeed the son of a peasant whom you gave 
me for a father ? " 


Then his mother came out upon the porch, and 
though her face was grey with double grief and she 
stooped as if she needed the strong arm of a brave 
man about her shoulders, the undutiful son struck 
at her with his flashing sword and she fell dead upon 
the pavement. 

Even this piteous sight did not touch the cold 
and fiery heart of Falcon the Hunter, who shouted 
out so that the walls of the palace of grey stone rang 
again, " I go now to give the old peasant, Ilya of 
Murom, to speedy death." Thereupon he crossed 
the grey sea over which the angry clouds were lower- 
ing, mounted his charger, and rode quickly towards 
the fair white linen pavilion of Ilya of Murom the 
Old Cossack. 

Lifting the curtain of the tent, he found his father 
sleeping and hurled a burning shaft at him ; but it 
struck the wondrous cross of gleaming gold which Ilya 
wore upon his heroic breast and glanced harmlessly 
aside, though the mighty blow roused the hero from 
his slumber. He leapt from his couch, seized his 
undutiful son by his yellow curls, and laid him lifeless 
upon the plain. So Ilya of Murom the Old Cossack 
freed the people of Holy Russia from their fear of 
Falcon the Hunter, the enemy of all mankind. 




ILYA OF MUROM rode Cloudfall across the open 
steppe. For nigh three hundred years he had 
ridden, and he wondered at the youthfulness of his 
heart which constant danger had kept fresh and 
young. " Ah, old age, old age ! Thou hast chased 
and overtaken even Cloudfall in the open steppe, 
and like a bleached raven hast alighted on my head 
but not on my arm." Then with a youthful gesture 
he flung out his sword arm, tightened the girth of 
Cloudfall and gave the rein to the shaggy bay steed. 
Away went Cloudfall like the wind, and Ilya as 
he sat upon him was like the falcon clear. There 
was no need of bridge or ferryman for this heroic 
traveller, for good Cloudfall leapt over shining lake 
and rushing river, quivering bog and reedy swamp. 
And as they rode they came to a place where three 
roads met, and there stood a burning white stone on 
which was inscribed : ' He who rides to the right 
shall gain great wealth ; he who rides to the left shall 
gain a wife ; he who rides straight forward shall gain 
his death." Then Ilya of Murom the Old Cossack 



halted and stood still with his head bowed in an 
attitude of the deepest thought. 

" I am an old man," he said to himself, ' and 
have all the wealth I need, for it wearies me to count 
it. Why should an old man wish for a wife ? I 
will take the straight road though Death should sit 
athwart it." Then he added, lifting his head with 
the light of unquenched youth still in his eyes, ' ' It 
may be that Death and I shall come to grips in one 
more great adventure." 

Then the youthful Old Cossack rode onward for 
leagues and leagues until at last he entered a gloomy 
forest into which he advanced for some distance, and 
then met a band of forty thousand robbers who cast 
eighty thousand envious eyes (save one, for the chief 
had lost an eye in a battle) upon the goodly propor- 
tions and intelligent appearance of Cloudfall the 
shaggy bay steed. " In all our lives," they said one 
to another, ' we have never seen such a horse. 
Halt then, good youth, halt, thou hero of Holy 
Russia ! ' And they would have forced him to halt 
but Ilya said : 

" Ho, ye robber horde ! Why kill an old man 
and rob him ? I have no money in my wallet save 
five hundred roubles. The cross of gold upon my 
breast is worth only five hundred to any one of 
your company my cloak of sables about three 
thousand, my cap and my sandals about five hundred 
each, my bridle, set with precious stones, about a 
thousand. My saddle, bordered with eagle feathers, 
-I hunted that eagle over the blue sea on the way 


to the palace of grey stone is priceless and therefore 
of no value to any of your company. Between the 
ears of Cloudfall and under his eyes are clear stones 
of purest jacinth, but he wears these, not for youthful 
vanity, but because they help him to see for thirty 
miles on all sides as he bounds across the open steppe. 
As for my faithful shaggy bay steed Cloudfall, he 
is worth nothing at all, except to me. Here then is 
my inventory. Value me I pray you for yourselves." 

The robber leaders jeered as they replied, " Thou 
art old and talkative, Cossack. Since we took to 
roaming across the white world, we have never met 
with such a fool. Why, thou art so foolish that thou 
hast told us all the clear truth. Seize the old man, 
my brothers." 

But as the robbers advanced upon him, Ilya of 
Murom drew a fiery dart from his quiver, and fixing 
it to his terrible bow shot at a tree to his right hand 
which was the grandmother of all the oaks. The 
mighty trunk was shivered into fragments, and the 
earth was ploughed up round about by the force of 
that tremendous blow, at the sound of which all the 
robbers fell flat upon the earth, where they lay for the 
space of five hours before they recovered themselves. 
And when they arose again to an erect posture the 
leader said : 

' Good youth, noble hero of Holy Russia ! 
Enter thou into comradeship with us. Take from 
our goodly store whatever pleases you of golden 
treasure, embroidered cloth, horses and cattle." 
But Ilya laughed the jolly laugh of the adventurer 


to whom goods and gear, however rich, are a trouble 
and a burden. ' Ah, brothers, my brave foes," 
he said, " I have no wish to be troubled with guarding 
treasure, feeding horses, and tending cows and sheep. 
I must ride and ride ever onward across the open 
steppe and leave the guarding of treasure to shop- 
keepers and merchants who live in towns behind 
bolts and bars." 

Then Ilya of Murom turned Cloudfall in his 
tracks, and came again to the burning white stone, 
from which he erased the inscription and wrote in 
its place : 

/, Ilya of Murom the Old Cossack, have ridden straight 
forward and have not gained my death. 

Once more the aged hero with the heart of youth 
rode out into the open steppe, turning this time 
to the left. He rode onward for three hundred 
miles and then came to a smooth meadow as green 
as an emerald stone, and upon this meadow stood a 
wonder of wonders. It was too small to be called 
a city and too large to be called a village. It was, 
in truth, a beautiful palace of white stone with roofs 
of shining gold and strange three-cornered towers. 

Ilya drew rein before the golden gateway, where- 
upon there came forth upon the green sward forty 
beautiful maidens, who walked proudlybehind Princess 
Zenira the All Fair. Ilya dismounted and bowed 
low, whereupon the beautiful Princess took him by 
his white hands, kissed him on the lips, and invited 
him to a feast in the banquet-hall of the palace of 


white stone. I have travelled far in Holy Russia," 
said Ilya of Murom, ' ' but I have never seen such a 
fair palace or such beautiful ladies." The maidens 
bowed their heads, like ears of corn before a gentle 
breeze, and the Princess led the hero within the 

When they came to the banquet-hall, Ilya bowed 
to North, South, East, and West, and especially to 
the Princess Zenira, who placed him at the table of 
fair white oak in the big corner and brought him 
food of the best with sweet mead to drink. " Do 
not eat or drink of these things until you are satisfied, 
good youth," she said gently, " for there is more to 
come." But Ilya looked at her as she spoke, and 
looked at her again, and for a third time he scanned 
her face and found it beautiful with the beauty of 
the newly-fallen snow on the wide steppe when the 
moon rises ; that was the beauty of the Princess 
Zenira. Then Ilya's eyes fell once more upon the 
fair white oak of the table and he said, speaking as one 
who knows his meaning, " I have ridden for three 
hundred miles and my hunger and thirst are as 
heroic as my steed." So he ate and drank his fill. 

Then as his head seemed to droop upon his 
breast, though in reality he was more wide awake 
than ever, the Princess Zenira led him to a rich 
warm chamber at one side of which stood a broad 
bed of yew wood and ivory with pillows of the 
softest down. 

" Here you will rest as on the lap of your mother," 
said the fair Princess, " but I advise you to lie near to 


the brick wall which is warm from the stove beneath." 
' Nay," said the hero, ' I will lie upon the outer 
edge for I often rise in the night to see for myself 
that Cloudfall is well stabled." Then without more 
ado, he seized the fair Princess Zenira by the middle 
and flung her upon the bed of yew wood against the 

And behold the bed of yew with pillows of 
softest down was false, for it turned on a pivot when 
the weight was cast upon the side nearer to the brick 
wall, and the fair Princess was hurled down into her 
dungeon, forty fathoms deep. Then Ilya turned 
and left the chamber, and coming out into the court- 
yard said in the voice of him who must be obeyed : 
" Give me the keys of gold which unlock the doors 
of the dungeon and show me the way to the dark 
vaults beneath this palace of white stone." So 
they pointed out the way, and he found it choked 
with yellow sand and barred with huge logs of 

He had really no need of keys of gold, silver, iron, 
or steel ; for in the strength of his heroic anger he 
tore the locks asunder with his hands and forced back 
the doors with his heels until they burst from 
their frames. Then came forth from the dungeons 
forty Tsars and Tsareviches, forty kings and princes, 
with their eldest sons, together with Nikitich the 
youth of supernatural wisdom, who could both read 
and write, but whose wonderful learning had not 
made him proof against the wiles of Princess Zenira 
although her beauty was only that of the newly- 

TIL 1 

'It was clear that her fascination still worked upon the hearts of the 


fallen snow upon the steppe illumined by the cold 
rays of the rising moon. 

There stood this great company, blinking their 
eyes in the light and looking very foolish, and as 
they hummed and ha'ed and wondered how to 
explain themselves, the fair Princess Zenira, as 
beautiful as ever, came round a corner of the dark 
passage, and her moonlight beauty lit up the darkness 
of the dungeon. In spite of all their experiences it 
was clear that her fascination still worked upon the 
hearts of the prisoners, and seeing this Ilya cried in 
a voice which shook the vaults until they re-echoed 
again and again, " Tsars, to your tsardoms ; kings, 
to your kingdoms ; Nikitich, to my side ; and, being 
delivered, say a prayer for Ilya of Murom the Old 

In a few moments the whole company with the 
exception of Nikitich was racing pell-mell across 
the emerald meadow, and having dismissed the 
youth of supernatural wisdom, Ilya advanced sternly 
upon the fair Princess Zenira. He took her by her 
lily-white hands and bound her to three Cossack 
ponies fresh from the farthest steppe. Then he 
drove them apart and turned his head that he might 
not see the end of that white witch ; and he divided 
her treasure among the prisoners, sending each man's 
share to his kingdom, and gave the fair white palace 
to the flames. 

Once more Ilya returned to the burning white 
stone, crossed out the old inscription and wrote yet 
another which ran : 


/, Ilya of Murom the Old Cossack, have ridden to 
the left and have not gained a wife 

" I will go now," said Ilya, " upon the last road, 
where wealth is to be won." So he rode again over 
the open steppe, and came at length to a green meadow 
where deep pits were dug, and then to a dark and 
gloomy forest in which there was a mountain cave 
rilled with fair red gold, white silver, and fine seed 
pearls ; and above the entrance to the cave, in the 
face of the smooth rock, were carved the words, 
" This treasure will fall to Ilya of Murom." 

For seven days Ilya sat wondering what he should 
do to dispose of the treasure. Then he arose and 
went to the nearest town, where he hired builders 
and carpenters, architects and workers in metal. 
These men he set to work to build a fair cathedral 
on the place where the gloomy forest had stood, and 
when the glorious building was completed, he 
instituted church singing and the sound of bells, 
for in these things his soul delighted. When this 
work had been finished and it occupied a fair 
space of time Ilya returned to Kiev city, where the 
courteous Prince Vladimir asked him where he had 

Sitting down in the great corner near the stove, 
the old man smiled gently, stretched his feet to the 
blaze, and told the Prince the Adventure of the 
Three Roads and of the Burning White Stone. 
Then he yawned and went to bed in the peace of 



THE tale of the wedding of Vladimir and the Princess 
Apraxia was one which was often told after a banquet ; 
and here it is : 

Quiet Dunai was a great traveller, and one who 
loved to move without turbulence, leisurely and at 
his chosen ease. From land to land he wandered, 
both seeing and observing, across the green and 
open steppe in summer, but resting in the winter 
within whatever palace of fair white stone he could 
find a seat in the great corner and hearers who 
would listen quietly to his traveller's tales. 

At last he came to the kingdom of Lithuania, 
where in the palace of the monarch he served for 
three years as equerry with the care of the King's 
horses and chargers ; for three more years he served 
as Grand Steward with the oversight of the great 
banquets with which the King honoured his nobles ; 
for three more years he served as Groom of the 
Chambers, and knew all the King's mind. And 
during all these years he loved, at times somewhat 
turbulently but yet on the whole quietly and devotedly 



and faithfully and hopefully, the Princess Nastasya, 
who in her turn favoured him silently and kept him 
ever in her golden heart. 

Now, on a certain day, the King of Lithuania 
made a great feast and invited all his nobles to share 
his hospitality. Quiet Dunai was very busy with the 
preparations for the banquet, and on one of his many 
visits to the King's apartments he happened to meet, 
quite by accident, the Princess Nastasya. She looked 
at him quietly and said : 

' Go not to this banquet, quiet Dunai, for there 
will be much eating and more drinking, and when 
the boasting time comes near the end of the feast 
you will brag of me." 

' I know you will, Dunai," she added gently, and 
Dunai looked at her quietly, feeling in his heart that 
what she said could not be denied. Then they 
will set upon you, Dunai, and you will lose your 
head." Hereupon the Princess sighed gently and 
looked down at the point of her golden slipper. 
But Dunai, quiet as he was, had no mind to avoid 
the feast, and declared his intention of being present ; 
and the Princess turned and left him humming a 
light song which seemed to have lost its merriment. 
The feast was held, and when the guests had 
eaten well and drunk better, then came the boasting 
time, when quiet Dunai took his turn with the rest, 
telling of his far wanderings, of the King's favour 
and rewards, and of how the beautiful young Princess 
Nastasya kept him ever in her golden heart. Then 
the King grew very angry and cried out : 

'Then the Princess run with her feet all bare out into the open 
corridor ' 


' Ho, there, ye headsmen, seize quiet Dunai by 
his white hands, lead him out upon the open steppe 
and chop off his turbulent head." 

Without delay the pitiless headsmen bore down 
upon Dunai and seized him by the shoulders. 
" I go without help from you," he said quietly as 
he shook them off ; " but as you lead me to the open 
steppe see that we pass by the window of the Princess 
Nastasya, who keeps me ever in her golden heart." 

Then there happened a great wonder, and yet it 
was no wonder at all. Before they had reached the 
window of the Princess, Dunai said quietly, " Sleepest 
thou, Nastasya ? Wakest thou not ? Lo, they are 
leading Dunai to the open steppe to cut off his 
loving head." 

Now the Princess lay sleeping when the whisper 
rustled through her casement and woke her very 
gently. Without delay she rose from her couch and 
put on a loose robe of fair white linen. But she had 
no time to fasten round it a girdle of gold, or to bind 
up her flowing tresses, before she heard the voice of 
Dunai once more, this time in tones of thunder, 
' Sleepest thou, Nastasya ? Wakest thou not ? Lo, 
they are leading Dunai to the open steppe to cut off 
his loving head." 

Then the Princess ran with her feet all bare out 
into the open corridor, from which she could see the 
prisoner and his guards, and stretching out her little 
hands in piteous entreaty she cried : 

' Ho, there, ye pitiless headsmen ! Take what 
treasure you desire, but when you come to the open 


steppe set free quiet Dunai that he may wander once 
again. And take back to the King the head of some 
prisoner who has paid for his crimes with his death- 
some one, any one except quiet Dunai." 

Then the headsmen made signs to the Princess 
that they would obey her, and the group passed out 
to the open steppe where quiet Dunai was set free 
and wandered on as he had done before he became 
the officer of the King of Lithuania and loved the 
Princess Nastasya. On he went, quietly watching 
until he came to Kiev town, where he went to the inn 
and entered into conversation with men of the place. 
From these fellows he learnt that Prince Vladimir 
was holding a great feast, and that his guests were 
eating the white swan and drinking green wine of 
priceless value. 

As it happened, just at that moment the boasting 
time had come. One man bragged of his horse, 
another of his valour, a third of his sharp sword, 
a fourth of his young wife, and a wise man who had 
not drunk so well, of the goodness of his father and 
the tenderness of his mother. In time, Prince 
Vladimir grew weary of their boasting and stood up 
among them, whereupon all their voices were hushed. 

" Boast not, my brothers," he said with a show 
of impatience. " Glory not in your horses, your 
great deeds, your golden treasures. Have not I red 
gold, white silver, and fine seed pearls in great abund- 
ance ? But in one matter most of you outstrip me. 
For ye have wives loving and beautiful, while I, your 
Prince, am still unwed. Is there no Princess who is 


my mate, and who will wed with me ? She must be 
like a goddess in stature and like a goddess in the 
perfection of her beauty, of delicate grace, and 
stately of gait like the peacock. There must be a 
faint flush in her face like unto the white hare, while 
her eyes must be falcon clear and full of light. 
Yellow hair must she have, with eyebrows of blackest 
sable, and her speech must be entrancing. Then, 
having found her, I shall have one beside me with 
whom I may think my deepest thoughts and take 
counsel, and to whom ye mighty princes, heroes, and 
all Kiev may pay homage as your queen." 

Then all the guests grew silent, and for a long 
time no man spoke a word ; and as often as the eye 
of Vladimir sought out one man, he took pains to 
hide himself behind some one bigger. At length 
there stood up in his place the bold, brave youth 
Nikitich, who could both read and write, and said : 

* My lord and master, Prince Vladimir, have I 
leave to speak what is in my mind without fear of 
speedy death or distant exile or heavy chastisement ? ' 

And Vladimir said, " Say on, Nikitich, and God 
may forgive you if you speak unwisely." 

Then the bold youth said fearlessly : 
' I know a fitting mate for you who is all that 
you have said, a beauty with whom none can com- 
pare in all the white world. For myself, I have not 
seen her, but of her loveliness I have often heard 
from my comrade, quiet Dunai, who sitteth now 
in the inn and hath no garments to fit him out for 
appearance at this honourable feast." 


Take my golden keys/' said Vladimir, ' and 
open my wardrobes. Choose from thence all that 
quiet Dunai requires of raiment, and bring him to 


Then Nikitich went out and did all that the 
Prince had ordered ; and as he passed through the 
streets with quiet Dunai by his side, the maidens 
and the wives, young and old, put forth their heads 
from the windows, asking each other across the 
narrow way, ' Whence come such goodly youths as 
these ? " 

As soon as they had come into the banquet hall, 
Dunai bowed to North, South, East, and West, and 
especially to Prince Vladimir, and they gave him a 
seat in the great corner by the fair white oaken table. 
Then they set food and wine before him, and when 
he had refreshed himself, Prince Vladimir poured 
out green wine into a crystal goblet from the East 
with a rim of thick gold and brought it to quiet 
Dunai, who took the cup in one hand and quaffed 
its contents at a breath. Then he stood up and said 
steadily : 

' I know a bride fit even to mate with you, 
Prince Vladimir, the Fair Sun of Kiev. The King 
of Lithuania has two fair daughters. The eldest, 
the Princess Nastasya, is no mate for you, for she 
loves best to ride abroad in the open plain seeking 
adventures, but her sister, the Princess Apraxia, sits 
at home in a fair chamber of her palace embroidering 
a kerchief of white linen with threads of ruddy 
gold. She sits behind thrice nine locks of cunning 


workmanship and thrice nine guards in a lofty castle, 
and the ruddy sun may not scorch her nor the fine 
and frequent rains drop upon her, nor the stormy 
winds disarrange her braided locks of yellow gold, 
while no venturesome breeze may mar the delicate 
flush in her face like unto the white hare. I have 
not yet seen her, but I know of her peerless beauty 
and speak of what I know." 

' Hear ye this, my Russian heroes ! ' cried 
Prince Vladimir, while his eyes shone brightly and 
his face was wreathed in smiles. " Whom shall we 
send as our royal envoy to far-off Lithuania ? ' 

Then one of the heroes spoke out : 
' Prince Vladimir," he said, " we have none of 
us been in strange lands with strange customs, nor 
talked in strange speech with strange people. In a 
matter where more than strength and goodwill is 
needed, namely, the wooing of a fair Princess, I 
doubt that none of your heroes would serve you well. 
Send quiet Dunai. He has been ambassador to 
royal courts and has received ambassadors also. 
He can talk in strange speech as well as fight ; let 
him woo the fair Princess Apraxia for you, and when 
she comes here, as she surely will, we will eat the 
white swan and drink green wine in her honour, and 
crack skulls, too, if she needs such heroic help." 

The truth of these words could not be denied, 
and as the hero who had spoken, suddenly realising 
that he had made a wise speech, hid in confusion 
behind his neighbour at the table, Prince Vladimir 
rose to his feet and said : 


' Go in my name, quiet Dimai, to the far-famed 
Lithuanian kingdom and woo the Princess Apraxia 
for me with all the skill at your command." 

' I go at your bidding," said quiet Dunai, with a 
bow, " but it is not fitting that I should go alone." 

Take a great army with you, if you will," said 
the Prince, " and if the King will not send his daughter 
with his blessing take her with his curse." 

' I need no army," said quiet Dunai, " nor yet 
rich store of treasure to tempt the King to sell his 
daughter. Send Nikitich with me. He is my be- 
loved comrade, a man of good birth who knows how 
to read and write, and therefore understands how to 
deal with people. Give us only two shaggy colts, 
fresh from the steppe, which have never borne saddle 
or bridle, and prepare a parchment scroll setting 
forth to the King that you desire the Princess Apraxia, 
not for youthful vanity, but for helpfulness that you 
may make her your wife, to whom all your thoughts 
will be made known, and who will share in all your 

These things were done in exact accordance with 
the wishes of quiet Dunai, who then left the palace 
in the company of Nikitich. In the courtyard they 
found awaiting them two shaggy colts, fresh from 
the steppe, which had never borne saddle or bridle. 
Upon these they fitted plaited bridles of many- 
coloured silks and saddle-cloths of silk, not for youth- 
ful vanity but for ease to their steeds. Over these 
they laid thick felts, and then their saddles of stout 
leather secured by twelve girths with silver buckles, 


while the buckles of the stirrups were of fine ruddy 

Then they dressed themselves in silken robes and 
Saracen caps, took up their maces of steel from 
Damascus, their mighty bows, and their silken whips, 
and, mounting their frisky chargers, rode quickly 
through the narrow streets of Kiev city. Before long 
they came to the outskirts and then out upon the 
open plain, when they urged on their shaggy steeds, 
spurring them gently and persuading them further 
with their whips of braided silk. Past deep lakes 
they rode and through dense forests, crashing through 
the undergrowth where the hoof of horse had never 
trodden, until they came at last, and after a long 
journey, to the brave land of Lithuania and the royal 
palace of its King. 

Quiet Dunai asked no leave of guards, porters, or 
gate-keepers, but flung the barriers wide and led the 
horses into the spacious courtyard, where they dis- 
mounted. Leaving Nikitich on guard over the 
chargers, Dunai took the bridles in his left hand, and 
in his right his club of elm- wood. 

" Stand there, Nikitich," said quiet Dunai, " and 
look steadfastly towards the hall of royal audience. 
When I call, come ! ' 

Then quiet Dunai crossed the courtyard and went 
into the hall of royal audience, where he found the 
King sitting upon his throne, and said to him in a 
quiet tone : 

" Hail, little father, King of brave Lithuania ! " 

" Hail, quiet Dunai ! " said the King. " Whither 


do you wander ? Have you come to fight against 
us or to serve us as before ? But before you answer, 
eat your fill and drink all that you need/' Then he 
set him in the great corner, and when he had refreshed 
himself somewhat hastily, Dunai said : 

' My errand is peaceful, little father. I come on 
behalf of the Fair Sun, Vladimir of Kiev, to woo 
your daughter the Princess Apraxia." Then he 
laid the parchment scroll upon the table, and the 
King spelled out a little of it, a little and no more, 
but that was enough to make him tear in anger at 
the black curls upon his forehead and stamp his feet 
upon the floor of red brick. 

" Stupid and dolt is Prince Vladimir of Kiev, 
who sends as his envoy such a slave as you. Ho 
there, my merciless jailors ! Seize quiet Dunai by 
his white hands and by his flowing curls, and lead him 
down to the deepest dungeon. Shut him in, bar 
the door, heap up against it logs of wood and iron 
gratings, and then over all pile up the yellow sand. 
Feed him on frozen oats and let him drink cold spring 
water until he returns to his senses." 

Quiet Dunai hung his head for a moment, and 
dropped his clear eyes to the floor of red brick. 
Then he raised his white hand and smote the table 
with his fist so that the wine was spilled, the dishes 
rolled upon the floor, the tables tumbled down and 
the pillars of the hall leaned this way and that, while 
the roof groaned and creaked. The servants of the 
King fled this way and the other, while their master 
gathered up the skirts of his royal robe and ran at 


great speed up the winding stairway to the top of his 
lofty tower, never pausing even to take a deep breath 
until he was safely hidden beneath a thick rug of 
marten skins. 

Then quiet Dunai took one light leap over the 
King's golden chair, seized one of the stout attendants 
by the heels, and using him as a club, began to slay 
the rest. " This club is tough," he said quietly but 
a little grimly to himself, as he went on with his 
work. " He will not break. He is wiry and will 
not tear." Then raising his voice he called through 
the window, " Ho, there, Nikitich ! " and the young 
man entered the hall, snatched up another attendant 
by the heels, and began to assist quiet Dunai in the 
first part of his strange wooing of the Princess 

But by and by the two friends heard the voice 
of the King through the window of the topmost 
apartment of his lofty tower. * Ho, there, quiet little 
Dunai ! ' he cried. ' Forget not my kindness to- 
wards you of old. Let us sit again together, you in 
the big corner, to discuss the wooing of Prince 
Vladimir. Take my elder daughter the Princess 
Nastasya, for I know little of her seeing that she loves 
adventure on the open steppe, and I shall not miss 
her so much." 

" I will not," said quiet Dunai, and went on with 
his work, Nikitich also ceasing not to assist him. 

" Take, then, the Princess Apraxia," cried the King 
in great haste, and the two friends paused to gather 
breath. Then quiet Dunai went to the great castle 


and began to knock off the thrice nine locks, and to 
force open the doors. He entered the tower with 
the golden roof and came to the apartment where 
the Princess Apraxia was pacing to and fro clad in a 
fine robe without a girdle, Her golden hair all un- 
bound and her feet all bare. 

' Hail, Princess," said the royal envoy, bowing 
courteously, " and pardon my coming without 
announcement. Will you wed with Prince Vladimir, 
the Fair Sun of Kiev ? " 

' For three years," said the Princess, " have I 
longed and prayed that Vladimir might be my 
husband/' Then quiet Dunai took her by the small 
white hands, kissed her golden ring, and led her at 
once into the courtyard where they met the King. 

Take with the Princess," he said, " her royal 
dowry," and he gave immediate orders for the 
loading of thirty wagons with red gold, white silver, 
and fine seed pearls. Then the Princess arrayed 
herself, and coming forth again rode away with the 
goodly youths over the smiling, far-reaching, green 
and open plain ; and as they rode she" sang softly 
to herself of love and freedom and a fair white throne. 

When the dark night fell the two youths set up a 
white linen pavilion, in which the Princess Apraxia 
rested, while they lay down near the entrance with 
their shaggy steeds at their feet, their sharp spears 
at their heads, their stout swords at their right 
hands and their daggers of steel at their left. Both 
slept, for their steeds were their sentinels, and the 
dark night passed by with nothing seen except the 


stars, nothing heard except the rustle of the breeze 
round the curtains of the fair white linen bower of 
the Princess Apraxia. 

While it was still early morning they arose, and 
were setting out again upon their way, when, looking 
back, they saw a Tatar horseman in pursuit of them, 
his steed all bespattered with the mire of the plain. 
When Dunai was aware of this, he sent Nikitich 
forward to Kiev town with the Princess Apraxia, 
but remained himself to meet the bold adventurer, 
who surely had not heard how quiet Dunai had 
wooed the Princess Apraxia for his royal master. 

In the midst of the plain the combatants met, 
and, without taking time to observe each other closely, 
but each taking the other for an accursed Tatar, they 
fell to resounding blows. In a few moments quiet 
Dunai was unhorsed, but he sprang at once to his 
nimble feet and fought his foe with mace and spear 
and sword, until he laid him prone upon the broad 
bosom of moist Mother Earth. Then quiet Dunai 
drew his dagger : 

Tell me now," he said, as he brushed the dew 
of onset from his eyes with his left sleeve, ' the 
name that you bear and the name of the accursed 
horde from whence you come." 

' If I sat on your white breast," said the stranger, 
1 I would not ask your name and horde, but would 
stab you to the heart." Then quiet Dunai raised 
his dagger and would have pierced the heart of his 
foe, but with his will, or without his will, his arm 
stiffened at the shoulder and that blow never fell, 



for now he saw in the prostrate figure before him the 
form of a woman while the fallen headgear revealed 
the parted, flowing hair and the low brow of the 
Princess Nastasya who loved quiet Dunai and kept 
him ever in her golden heart. 

Without a word of speech, but with a heart full 
of deep and tender reproach, quiet Dunai took 
Nastasya by her lily-white hands, and raising her to 
her nimble feet, looked at her until he knew of her 
forgiveness and then kissed her sugar mouth. " Let 
us go," he said quietly, ' to Kiev town and take 
the golden crowns." Then he placed her upon his 
good steed, took from her the mace of steel and the 
sharp sword which she bore, and, mounting behind 
her, rode onward to the city of Prince Vladimir. 

' I came to seek my sister," said the Princess, 
as if suddenly remembering the cause of her ride. 

" You shall find her in Kiev town," said Dunai, 
" and there she and Prince Vladimir will also take 
the golden crowns." 

Then Nastasya spoke no further, for she was too 
contented for speech, and they rode ever onward 
across the open steppe, the glorious far-reaching, 
sun-lit, boundless plain. 

Thus they came to Kiev town, and went at once 
to the great church. In the outer porch they met 
Prince Vladimir and the Princess Apraxia who had 
also come thither to take the golden crowns. The 
sisters greeted each other with love, and the company 
went into the dim coolness of the great church and 
up to the high altar where a priest awaited them. 


And there Prince Vladimir was wedded to the 
Princess Apraxia while the singing boys held the 
golden crowns above their heads, and quiet Dunai 
was wedded to the Princess Nastasya while the 
singing boys held in turn the golden crowns above 
their heads ; and when that was done the whole 
company went to the palace of Prince Vladimir, 
where such a feast was laid as had not been prepared 
since the coming of the Prince to his royal city ; 
and quiet Dunai sat in the great corner. 

For three years they lived in mirth and joy, the 
Princess Apraxia keeping to her palace, her fine 
embroidery and her household and knowing all her 
husband's thoughts ; the Princess Nastasya sharing 
her husband's life of quiet wandering, both of them 
being quite content in the summer with the life on 
the boundless steppe and in winter returning to the 
palace of white stone in fair Kiev city. 

Then Prince Vladimir made another great feast, 
and when it came to the boasting time quiet Dunai 
bragged with the loudest : 

" In all this royal city," he said, 'there is no 
such hero as quiet Dunai. From the land of Lithu- 
ania he carried away two white swans of glorious 
plumage, one of whom he took for himself while he 
gave away the other with ungrudging hand." 

The Princess Nastasya looked at him, and a world 
of wisdom was in her glance. Your boast is 
emptiness, Dunai," she said. ' I have not dwelt 
long in this city, but I have learnt much. There are 
handsomer, braver, more courteous heroes in Kiev 


town whom I could name. Neither in deeds nor 
promise are these men lacking, and, apart from them, 
even I, the wife of a boaster, have some skill with 
the bow. Let us take a stout bow and set up a 
sharp dagger on the open steppe a mile away, and 
before the dagger a silver ring. Then let us shoot 
through the ring of silver at the sharp dagger in such 
a skilful way that the shaft may fall into two equal 
parts against the dagger, into two parts exactly 
equal both to the eye and to the discerning hand 
which can tell weight from weight." 

Thereupon quiet Dunai was very angry, but he 
said steadily, " It is well, little Nastasya. Let us go 
to the open steppe, set up a sharp dagger a mile 
away with a silver ring before it, and shoot our 
fiery darts as you have said." So they went out to 
put the matter to the trial. Nastasya shot a flaming 
arrow, which passed through the ring as through 
the open air, fell upon the sharp blade and was cut 
into two parts exactly equal both to the eye and to 
the discerning hand. Then quiet Dunai shot a 
flaming arrow, and it sped too far ; he shot a second, 
and it sped not far enough ; he shot a third, which 
came not near the silver ring and was not seen again. 
Then he shot a fourth into the breast of Nastasya, 
and she fell upon the open plain where she had loved 
to wander. 

And still in the moment of her death she loved 
quiet Dunai and kept him ever in her golden heart. 
"Forgive, my lord, my foolish woman's words," she 
said, " and tend with care the son of mine whom I 


leave in Kiev town, for such a boy is not to be found 
in all the world. His little legs are silver to the knee, 
his arms to the elbow are of purest gold ; upon his 
open forehead glows the fair round sun, upon his 
golden head glitter countless stars, and at the back 
of his head the bright moon shineth." So she spoke 
in her death-pain, and the heart of quiet Dunai 
burned within his breast for deep grief and scorching 
remorse and torturing pity. Where the white 
swan fell," he said, " there shall fall the falcon 

Then he placed the handle of his sword in the 
bosom of moist Mother Earth and fell with his 
white breast upon the sharp point. And from that 
spot far away across the boundless plain flowed two 
gently wandering streams. The greater was the 
Dnieper, deep and full and quiet, yet resistless in 
its noiseless might, which ran past Kiev town ; the 
lesser was the Dwina, which flowed to the kingdom 
of Lithuania. And where the two streams met, two 
cypress trees sprang up, and their branches twined 
lovingly together, whispering when the breeze arose 
in tender tones of love and pity of the steadfastness 
of the Princess Nastasya, who loved quiet Dunai and 
kept him ever in her golden heart. 





THE day of the birth of Nikitich had been a day of 
trouble for wide distances across the open steppe. 
For upon that wonderful day a great storm seemed 
to arise, and yet not a great storm but a strange 
commotion, unseen, unheard, but keenly felt. From 
far across the open plain came a herd of beasts, 
wild beasts and fearsome dragons large and small, 
and sought the shallow valley of the Dnieper river. 
At their head ran the Skiper-beast, with woolly 
fleece, twisted horn, and hoofs which struck sparks 
from the pebbles of flint. Then the waters of the 
Dnieper were strangely troubled, the banks of the 
river quaked and fell, and trees which once had waved 
upright now spanned the stream. Such had been 
the day of the birth of Nikitich. 

Now when he grew up to youthful manhood, 
Nikitich sought service in the royal household of 
Prince Vladimir, and though he was of supernatural 
wisdom, having learnt to read and write, he served 
with the rest, for three years in the palace, for three 
years in the royal gardens, and for three years as 
keeper of the gate ; but for all his faithful service 



he won no praise of Vladimir and no reward except 
a horse of the finest mettle, and he was kept always 
within the confines of the royal palace. But at a 
certain princely banquet Nikitich rose to his feet in 
his place at one end of the oaken board, and said : 

' Prince Vladimir, Fair Sun of royal Kiev, I 
have served thee long and faithfully, but always 
within the confines of the royal palace. Give me 
leave to wander farther, and first of all through the 
narrow lanes of Kiev town." 

" Young nestling," said Prince Vladimir, " fly 
not from the nest. Young colt of the open steppe, 
gallop not away." But the heroes of Holy Russia 
who sat at the board of Prince Vladimir had pity 
upon the young man and they said, ' Go, Nikitich, 
and ask your mother." Then Vladimir laughed and 
gave the young man leave. 

And the counsel of the mother of Nikitich ran 
thus : 

" Walk at will through all the streets of Kiev town 
and roam through all the little by-ways. But avoid 
a certain little lane where dwells the Princess Marina, 
for she is a witch of the vilest who has brought to 
their death many Tsars and Tsareviches, Kings 
and Crown Princes, nobles and their heirs. If you 
go near the Princess Marina you will lose your 

But, sad to tell, the counsel had this effect upon 
the young man, that he longed most of all to go 
to the certain little lane where dwelt the Princess 


On the next day he rose very early and washed 
himself very white in clear water from the spring. 
Then he took his stout bow in his hand and slung 
his quiver of gleaming arrows upon his back. He 
wandered on through the streets and narrow lanes 
and came at length to a certain little lane where he 
found the palace of the Princess Marina. It was finely 
built and richly adorned, while in the window of one 
apartment sat a mated pair of dark-blue doves cooing 
lovingly with yellow bill to yellow bill and wing 
enfolding wing. Then Nikitich fitted a flaming 
arrow to his stout bow and shot at the cooing doves, 
but as the shaft was leaving the string his left foot 
slipped and his right hand shook so that the arrow 
missed the loving birds, went singing through the 
lattice-window and slew the favourite of the Princess 
Marina who was known as the Son of the Dragon 
and was known for nothing good. 

" If I go into the palace," said Nikitich to him- 
self, " I shall lose my head. If I do not go, I shall 
lose my arrow." So he called to his page, who 
always walked or stood three paces behind him, and 
sent him into the palace to seek for the arrow. 

" Thou witch and sorceress," said the bold page 
to the Princess, " return to us our burning arrow." 

" Nay," said Marina, " let him who sent it come 
to ask for it." And when this was told to Nikitich 
he ran quickly into the courtyard of the palace and 
from thence to the apartment of the Princess Marina 
and took the shaft from the body of the Son of the 
Dragon. Marina lay upon a couch which was 


covered with a broad mantle of marten skins and 
fondled a fiery dragon with her right hand, while 
she played with two poisonous serpents with her 
left. As soon as Nikitich entered the room she 
sprang to her nimble feet and stretched out her lily- 
white hands to him : 

" Sweet Nikitich," she said looking at him with 
honey eyes and sugar lips, " stay with me always and 
I will teach you to calm the fiery dragon and charm 
the poisonous serpent. You shall rest all day and 
no foe, however powerful, will be able to harm 

" Sweet Marina," answered the young man, who 
was really in a very great hurry, " I will not. I have 
no desire to calm the fiery dragon and charm the 
poisonous serpent but to fight and kill them. Nor 
would rest without labour have any charms for me. 
Besides I know your guile, for you have brought 
nine- brave Russian heroes to their end and now 
are minded to put an end to me." Then he turned 
abruptly from the apartment in spite of all the sweet 
glances of Marina, who was really very lovely, and 
went home again to his mother with his fiery dart 
in his hand. 

As soon as he was gone, Marina seized her dagger, 
and from the clay floor of the apartment she hacked 
out the footprints of Nikitich. Then she painted 
the pieces of earth with many devices in various 
colours and said her verses over them as she placed 
them in an oven to bake : 

" Burn ye footsteps of Nikitich, burn in this oven y 

' Marina lay upon a couch 
right hand ' 

and fondled a fiery 


with her 



burn, burn ; and as his footsteps burn may his heart 
burn to return to me" 

Now as the witch spoke these words Nikitich 
felt a strange longing and uneasiness fall upon his 
spirit. He sat down at night by the fair white oaken 
table but he could eat no food ; when he went to 
rest he could not sleep but lay tossing about and 
waiting with impatience for the coming of the white 
dawn. At the first bell for prayers he rose, dressed 
himself, went first to the cathedral service, and then 
took his way to a certain little lane in Kiev town 
where lived the Princess Marina. 

He entered the apartment of the Princess slowly 
and with downcast eyes ; but she turned her 
white shoulders upon him and did not reply to his 

* Ah, sweet Marina," said the enchanted youth, 
' I have come to stay with you always, for since 
yesterday I have had no peace of mind apart from 

" I asked you yesterday to stay with me, Nikitich," 
said the enchantress, " and you would not. So now 
you are in my power. If I wish, I can turn you into 
a raven, a magpie, a pig, or a heroic ox with golden 
horns, silver hoofs, and a coat as sleek as velvet, or 
even into a loathsome frog. And if I change you 
into a frog no power on earth or in the sky or in the 
sea, or in the underworld can change you again so 
that your spiteful mother will know you." 

Then by a slight movement of her lily - white 
hand she turned the young man into a heroic ox 


with golden horns, silver hoofs, and a coat as sleek as 
velvet. And she drove him out into the open steppe 
to drink swamp water and to eat marsh grass and 
to be lord over the nine brown oxen which had once 
been Russian heroes, strong and mighty. Now as 
he roamed about the plain not far away from the 
dwellings of Kiev, he saw a flock of geese which 
belonged to his aunt ; and wickedness entered into 
his heart, so that he trampled the whole gabbling 
flock to death down to the very last gosling. Then 
the goose-girls went to their mistress and with much 
shaking of dark locks and heaving of white shoulders 
they told their tale. 

As soon as they had finished their story the 
swan-keepers came with a similar tale, and then the 
shepherds, and after these the herdsmen. Not a 
living creature of all the flocks and herds had the 
golden-horned monster spared. 

" I know," said the aunt of Nikitich, " whence 
comes this fierce beast. It is my well -beloved 
Nikitich whom the vile witch Marina has changed 
by her sorcery." Even as she spoke the horse- 
keepers came to tell how the animal had driven the 
steeds before him so that all had been lost far over 
the open steppe, dispersed and driven away many 
miles from Kiev city. Then the aunt of Nikitich 
rose in white anger, and by means of a secret charm 
she knew she changed herself into a chattering 
magpie and flew away to the palace of Marina, where 
she perched herself upon the sill of the lattice-window 
and began to scold with all her might and to say : 


" Wicked Marina, the ugly ! Why have you 
turned my nephew Nikitich into a golden-horned 
heroic ox, and set him free to roam across the open 
steppe ? Take off your charm from my nephew or 
I will turn you into a long-tailed dog to be chased 
through the lanes of Kiev by the children, or into a 
chattering magpie full of guile and spleen." 

Now at the game of changes no one could excel 
Marina, and when she heard the threat of the aunt of 
Nikitich she changed herself into a grey swallow 
and flew over the head of the chattering magpie far 
away across the open steppe. After a long flight 
she came to the golden-horned heroic ox, and alight- 
ing upon his head said in his ear : 

' Promise me now, Nikitich, promise me with a 
great oath that you will take the golden crowns 
with me, and I will turn you back into your own 
shape again. Swear now, for you have roamed the 
wild steppe and must needs be weary, and have 
wandered far by the bubbling marshes and must 
needs be tired." 

" Ah, sweet Marina," said Nikitich, glancing 
upward with a piteous look, u only deliver me from 
the form of this heroic beast and I will take the 
golden crowns with you. I will marry you, Marina, 
and will teach you the little lessons which a wise 
husband imparts to an obedient wife for her 

Then Marina believed him and turned him into a 
goodly youth as he had been when he first entered 
her apartment in search of his fiery dart ; and she 


changed herself into a lovely bride, but she could 
not change the emerald hue of her eyes. 

: Now I will wed you, Marina," said the wise 
Nikitich. ' Round this bush we go, three times 
round this willow bush, and then you may call 
Nikitich your husband if you will." So round the 
bush they went, hand in hand, three times round 
the willow bush, while the eyes of the beautiful 
bride gleamed greener than ever before. 

So the bride and bridegroom came, side by side, 
to the palace of Marina, where Nikitich called to 
one of the servants : 

' Ho, there, bring me a cup of green wine, and a 
sword of damascened steel, sharp and bright." 

At these words the witch bride put forth her 
spells again and turned her bridegroom into a little 
ermine and began to frighten him. Then she turned 
him into a falcon, but by her witchcraft she was 
able to prevent him from flying anywhere except 
round and round her head. 

" I cannot fly like the falcon clear," said Nikitich, 
I can only flap my wings up and down. Give me, 
I beg of you, a cup of green wine to drink." 

Then as if to delight her own eyes and tease him 
still further, the witch bride turned him once more 
into a goodly young man who shouted out again : 

' Ho, there, bring me a cup of green wine and a 
sword of damascened steel, sharp and bright." 

Once more Marina raised her lily-white hands 
and began to perform her enchantments. But before 
she could change her bridegroom again the servant 


stood at his side with the cup of wine in one hand 
and the sword in the other. Nikitich set aside the 
wine and taking the sword in his hands cut off the 
head of Marina with one sharp stroke. 

In the morning, as the young man went to his 
bath, a great company of princes and nobles met him 
in the passage : 

" Hail, Nikitich," they cried courteously. " How 
is it with your bride ? ' 

" Hail, princes and nobles, heroes and courtiers 
of Vladimir," said the young man with a jolly laugh. 
' Last night I was wedded and no longer alone. 
This morning I am alone and no longer wedded, for 
I have cut off the head of my troublesome bride, 
who had brought to their death many heroes and 
princes of Holy Russia." 

Then he went to his bath, and returning to the 
court of Vladimir was given a seat in the great 
corner while he told his wonderful adventure. 
There is no need," said the Prince, " to cross the 
boundless plain for strange happenings, for to the 
adventurous the adventure may come in a narrow 

But in spite of the words of his Prince, Nikitich 
now longed to roam the open plain to seek fresh 
adventures. So he set out on the very next day 
and wandered on and on until he came to a wide- 
spreading oak on which a pied raven, half of whose 
wings were white, sat croaking, croaking, croaking. 
So harsh was its voice that Nikitich strung his bow, 
fitted a flaming arrow to the cord and prepared to 



shoot the croaking bird. But as he did so the raven 
put its head on one side and spoke to him in the speech 
of Holy Russia. 

: Hail now, little Nikitich, the adventurer. Do 
not kill me and I will make known to you all kinds of 
secrets. Do not the little ones of the lanes and 
streets say to one another, ' There is no wisdom in 
killing an old man, and he who shoots a raven makes 
no broth.' Now that I see your bow unstrung I 
will tell you something worth knowing in return for 
your forbearance. By the lofty mountain across the 
steppe there are three wonders, even three marvellous 
damsels. The first is a lily for whiteness, the second 
is a rose for redness, and the third is a violet for 
darkness. More beautiful are they than the spring 
flowers on the steppe. How is this for an adventure 
on a fine morning for Nikitich the slayer of dragon 
brides ? " 

Now Nikitich had succeeded so well in his first 
adventure that he was burning to try a second. So 
he lowered his bow and reflected a little before he 
spoke. Then he said : 

" What you have quoted of the children's wisdom 
must be true and I will try the adventure. It is 
better to go to the lofty mountain and see with my 
own eyes the lily, the rose, and the violet, those three 
marvels of beauty, than that I should prove my 
valour by shooting a raven." Then the pied bird 
flew away, croaking, croaking, croaking. 

Nikitich turned his horse and rode, quickly, very 
quickly, very, very quickly, and with heroic speed, 


towards the lofty mountain far away across the open 
steppe, and at the foot of this mountain he found a 
pavilion of fair white linen embroidered with gold. 
This is a fitting dwelling for three marvellous 
damsels," said the young man to himself, " the first 
a lily for whiteness, the second a rose for redness, 
and the third a violet for darkness. But it seems to 
me that either they are not at home or they have 
locked up their beauty very securely ; ' for the 
entrance to the pavilion was secured by a stout bar 
on which was a lock of damascened steel. The 
young man alighted, spread fine wheat for his 
horse near the entrance of the pavilion, planted his 
spear in the bosom of moist Mother Earth, and went 
forward to look more closely at the lock, upon which 
he found this inscription : 

" Whoso enters this pavilion shall not come thence 


This was, of course, a direct invitation to an 
adventurous youth, and with one blow of his fist 
Nikitich struck the lock from its place and it fell to 
the earth at his feet. Then he removed the beam 
and pushed his way into the pavilion, where he saw 
tables set with food of the richest and wine of the 
greenest. He looked round warily, his hand upon 
his sword, and even searched beneath the tables, but 
found neither hero nor damsels in all the place. 
So he sat down at one table and ate well and drank 
too well, for as soon as he was satisfied he began to 
throw food and wine about the floor. When he 


was weary of this foolish exercise, he lay down to 

For a long time he slept, dreaming of lilies, roses, 
and violets, and knew not that even as he slumbered 
the owner of that fair pavilion was speeding across 
the open steppe. This was the hero Alyosha of the 
court of Prince Vladimir, who arrived breathless to 
find a steed feeding quietly before his pavilion, and 
a sleeper within who had eaten well and drunk too 
well and then had thrown food and wine about the 

Now at this sight Alyosha grew very angry, and 
his turbulent heart boiled within him. His pointed 
spear was in his hand, and in a moment his anger 
suggested to him that he could easily punish Nikitich 
for his fault. But he put aside the idea with disgust, 
for he was a hero and a gentleman. ' I shall win 
no honour," he said to himself, " if I kill a sleeping 
man who is no better than a dead one." Then he 
reflected for a few moments, smiled gently, went 
out of the pavilion and mounted not his own horse 
but the good steed of Nikitich. 

Holding his spear reversed, he rode into the 
pavilion and struck the sleeper on the breast with 
the butt end of it. Nikitich sat up suddenly, sprang 
to his nimble feet, from which he had cast his shoes 
before falling asleep, and grasping his mace in his 
right hand prepared to defend himself against all 
comers. Then a stern fight began within the pavilion 
to the sound of tumbling tables, breaking crockery 
and crashing glass. All day they fought without 


ceasing even to snatch up a bite of food ; all night 
the fight went on with never a draught of wine to 
slake their thirst. For two more days and two more 
nights the combat continued, and then there came 
a clap of thunder loud enough to wake Svyatogor 
from his sleep among the Holy Mountains. 

Now Ilya of Murom the Old Cossack heard 
that sound and he said to himself, ' ' Somewhere in 
the white world Russian heroes are fighting one 
another. That is not well, for their strength must 
be kept for battle with accursed Tatars." 

So he saddled his good steed Cloudfall, and those 
who watched his preparations for his ride saw him 
mount, but they did not see him as he rode, so quickly 
sped the shaggy bay steed across the open steppe. 
In a short space of time he came to the lofty mountain, 
and entering the pavilion saw the two young men 
fighting amidst the remnants of a feast. Then he 
seized Nikitich by his right hand and Alyosha by 
his left and shouted in a heroic voice, Why fight 
against each other, ye heroes of Holy Russia ? ' 

Alyosha was the first to speak. ' Ah," he said, 
" thou Old Cossack, Ilya of Murom, how could I 
refrain from punishing Nikitich ? For I prepared 
a banquet within my own pavilion and this fellow 
unbarred the door, sat down by himself to eat well 
and drink too well, and then scattered the rich food 
and green wine about the floor ! ' As he spoke, 
the voice of Alyosha rose higher and higher with 
indignation until the last words were like the scream 
of a peacock in the garden of the Princess Apraxia. 


You did well, Alyosha," said Ilya with a fatherly 
smile about his lips, " for a man is no man who is 
not able to defend his own. And as for you, Nikitich, 
how does it stand with your case ? ' 

' I could do nothing in honour but fight," was 
the reply. ' For the inscription on the lock denied life 
to those who entered this pavilion. It was but an in- 
vitation to an adventurer from the court of Vladimir." 
You did well, Nikitich," said Ilya with a deep 
laugh in his eyes, " to defend yourself against such 
odds, for a hero is no hero who is not able to defend 
his own." Then he paused and looked at both of 
the combatants, who presented a sorry spectacle. 
After that he looked round about the wrecked 
pavilion which had been intended as a place of 
entertainment for heroes and bold warrior maids. 

* It will be well, Nikitich," he said quietly, 
* if you stay to be invited to the next feast that is 
laid in this pavilion, and well for you, Alyosha, if 
you do not tempt brave men by forbidding them. 
Come now, calm your heroic turbulent hearts and 
swear brotherhood with exchange of crosses." Then 
the two heroes swore eternal friendship with the 
exchange of crosses, and they all set out for the 
court of Vladimir, who when he saw them and heard 
their story laughed in his beard. 

" It is not wise, Nikitich," he said, " to expect to 
win a bride in each day's adventure." 

Then they went in to supper, and Ilya of Murom 
sat in the great corner that night and it was he who 
told the tale. 



-v- --V>- 

. . . . VV - ,-Ssa^ 


FROM far beyond the deep blue sea, from India the 
Glorious, came Lord Diuk the son of Stephen. 
Like a white hawk his ship skimmed lightly across 
the heaving waters, and like a white ermine coursing 
he rode across the boundless open plain. As he 
rode jauntily onward his bow-case and his quiver 
beat against his hips, and like a flaming arrow from 
that same bow was the speed of his good steed, 
Rough- Coat. His helmet and his armour were of 
gleaming silver, his shirt of mail, close fitting, was 
of ruddy gold woven in chains as fine as silk from 
Samarcand. When he came to a river he asked for 
no bridge or ford, for Rough-Coat leapt from shore 
to shore at a single bound. 

Now as Lord Diuk rode onward he hunted, and 
the foxes, martens, eagles, geese, white swans and 
downy ducks knew and told each other by their 
cries that a practised hunter was abroad. When an 
arrow sped from his bow a shaft of light seemed to 
rend the heavens, and where the flaming darts fell to 
earth a radiance streamed as from the pale cold moon 



shining across the white world of the snowy steppe. 
He shot three times a hundred arrows and three 
times one, and though he found the three hundred 
shafts he did not find the three ; and this appeared 
to him to be a very great wonder. 

" The three arrows which I have lost," he said 
to himself, " are of priceless value. They were 
made of the graceful reeds and were covered with 
gold beaten finer than the parchment of the holy 
monks, and set with precious stones so that in their 
flight they shone like the rays of the sun at early 
dawn. The feathers were those of the blue-grey 
eagle, which is swifter in its flight than all the birds 
of the air, and flies across the deep blue sea to visit 
its eyrie on the tall burning white stone which flashes 
for a thousand miles. Its feathers are hard to come 
by, being more precious than satin or cut velvet, or 
silk from Samarcand." 

Thinking deeply and somewhat depressed at his 
heavy loss, Diuk once more mounted Rough-Coat 
and gave him the rein for home. As he sped onward 
he overtook a company of one and thirty wandering 
pilgrims, and reining in his horse demanded : 

" Ho, there, you greybeards, are you thieves or 
robbers or travellers, midnight prowlers or plunderers 
of churches ? ' 

Then the psalm-singers replied : 

Young Diuk, we are neither thieves, nor robbers, 
prowlers nor plunderers of churches, but pilgrims 
on the long journey from Kiev town to India the 


" Is the journey long ? ' asked Diuk in a more 
respectful tone. 

" We have indeed come a long way from Kiev 
town," was the quiet answer. ' It is a journey of a 
year on foot and then three months on the bosom 
of the deep blue sea." 

With a low reverence to the holy pilgrims, Diuk 
rode to his home, which he reached in a short space 
of time ; and on the next day after having been to 
vespers he sought out his lady mother. 

" Mother mine," he said, " must I stay always 
at home engaged in childish pursuits while my 
manhood calls me, calls me ever and ever more 
loudly across the boundless plain ? I ought to ride 
with head aloft and shoulders squared upon my 
dapple bay steed Rough-Coat, and prove my manhood 
by my fearless deeds. I have seen some fair cities, 
but never have I seen Kiev the Great nor beheld 
with my own eyes the beauty of the Princess Apraxia 
whom all men praise. Give me leave, lady mother, 
leave and your good blessing, and let me go to Kiev 
town at once and now." 

Then the mother's heart grew tender, and in her 
eagerness to keep him by her side she magnified the 
dangers of the way and thus, all unknowing, added 
to his eagerness to go. 

" Alas, my dear son," she said, " you have not 
yet ridden far across the boundless plain nor heard 
the roar of the wild beast and the fierce cry of the 
accursed Tatar. Never will you return in safety 
from the dangers of the open steppe. As for Kiev, 


the city of Vladimir, the people of that place are not 
worthy to keep company with such as you. They 
will look upon you as a purse to be picked, for they 
are traders, sons of merchants, traffickers in goods 
which your forefathers would win with sword and 
mace and lance. I will not give you leave and blessing 
to go to the Court of Vladimir, that ruler of shop- 

Diuk's eyes had gleamed as his mother spoke of 
the way in which his ancestors had won their wealth ; 
and seeing this she tried another course. 

' Besides," she went on quickly, " there are 
three great barriers on the way to Kiev city. The 
first is the barrier of the moving mountains, which 
clash together and catch the unwary traveller in 
their strong grip. The second is the barrier of the 
ravenous birds, which will tear thee and thy good 
steed to a thousand pieces. The third barrier is the 
Mountain Dragon with twelve tails, each with a 
sting in it. He will devour you if indeed you have 
been fortunate enough to pass the clashing mountains 
and the ravenous birds." 

Each fresh terror which she described added to 
the young man's eagerness to set out upon the 
journey to Kiev town ; and having done reverence 
to his weeping mother he went to the stable and 
combed the coat of his faithful steed with a fine 
comb of fishes' teeth, as well as the mane and tail, 
which brushed the bosom of moist Mother Earth 
as he passed on his flight and swept away all traces 
of his hoofs. Then he saddled his good horse and 


plaited bright jewels in his mane, standing off to 
admire his handiwork, speaking meanwhile to the 
animal in human speech ; and in human speech the 
horse replied to him saying : 

Tear not my sides with spurs, dear master ; 
lash me not with your whip of silk ; tighten not the 
bridle upon my faithful head ; but when I speed 
cling to my mane and fear not when I leap from 
mountain-top to mountain-top, when I clear a great 
lake at a bound and a river at an easy jump. So 
shall I be your friend and helper as was Cloudfall 
to Ilya of Murom the Old Cossack." 

Then Diuk prepared himself for the heroic 
journey and went to say farewell to his lady mother, 
who had wept till her eyes were bright again, and she 
was ready to give both leave and blessing to her 
bold and fearless son. She gave him also a warning. 
" My dear son," she said, " when you come to Kiev 
town and to the Court of Prince Vladimir and he 
makes a banquet in your honour, boast not of your 
wealth, or of me your mother." Then she kissed 
him upon his honey mouth and he rode away with 
happy heart. They saw him as he mounted Rough- 
Coat but they did not see him as he rode, so swift was 
his flight it was only a wreath of smoke, a pillar of 
dust far off upon the boundless plain, and he was gone. 

Now in due time he came to the first barrier of 
the moving mountains, which, of course, could 
not always be meeting, but must also part to meet 
once more ; and watching for the time when they 
parted, Rough- Coat darted between them so quickly 


that they only caught a long hair from his flowing 
tail. Then they came to the second barrier of the 
ravenous birds, which swooped down upon them. 
But Rough-Coat dipped his head and flung up his 
hind feet so that they pecked only at his hoofs and 
found no sweetness in that meal ; and with two 
heroic leaps the brave steed was far beyond the 
reach of the pecking birds. Last of all they came so 
suddenly upon the barrier of the dragon that before 
he could rouse himself and uncoil his stinging tails 
one by one Rough-Coat was far beyond the reach 
of their malice. 

So the three terrible barriers were safely passed 
without the loss of a single arrow, and Diuk rode 
onward singing gaily of the great deeds of Svyatogor 
and Ilya of Murom the Old Cossack. On he went 
across the boundless open plain until he came to a 
ring-barked oak on which sat a raven as black as 
night, croaking, croaking, croaking. Diuk looked 
up with impatience, for in his heart he feared an 
omen more than clashing mountains, pecking birds, 
or dragons with twelve stinging tails. 

" Thou bird of evil," he cried, " I will scatter 
thy sable feathers upon the open plain. I will spill 
thy blood upon the ring-barked oak and give thee 
over to croaking Death." 

But the raven answered him in the speech of 
Holy Russia, " Shed not my blood, young Lord 
Diuk. Ride on across the open steppe and you will 
find an adversary worthy of your stout bow and your 
shining arrows." 


This speech filled the heart of the young hero 
with gladness and with the hope of meeting an 
adventure worthy of his ancestry. He rode on again 
until he came upon the hoof-prints of a horse deeply 
marked on the broad lap of moist Mother Earth, 
so deeply that it was clear to all eyes that a hero of 
mighty stature had recently passed that way. A few 
more leaps of Rough -Coat, and Diuk came to a 
pavilion of fair white linen embroidered with gold, 
beside which strayed a shaggy charger eating fine 
white Turkish wheat, which was heaped freely upon 
the ground for his solace and entertainment. 

When Diuk saw this his heart failed him and 
he said to himself, " My courage leaves me and I 
dare not enter that pavilion, for the hero who sits 
therein will assuredly cut off my head. But I will 
place Rough-Coat by the side of this charger and he 
also shall stoop to the wheat. If the two horses eat 
together in peace, I will take it as a sign that the 
hero will do me no harm. But if the horses begin to 
quarrel I shall know that it is time for me to return 
to my lady mother." For a strange dread and fear 
was upon the young man who had set out so boldly 
but who now felt that he was within the circle of a 
spell. And well he might, as we shall see. 

The two chargers ate in peace, and Diuk, taking 
heart again, entered the pavilion, bowing as he passed 
the threshold to North, South, East, and West, and 
especially to the owner who slept in one corner 
with a terrible snore. Diuk came forward, and 
looking closer knew at once that the sleeper was none 


other than Ilya of Murom the Old Cossack, wrapt 
in one of the deep sleeps for which he was as famous 
as for heroic deeds. 

* Rouse ye , Ilya of Murom , ' ' cried Diuk ; " it is time 
to go to royal Kiev town so as to be present at matins 
on Easter morn." But Ilya slept on and snored and 
stirred not. Again Diuk shouted, and again without 
result ; but at his third shout the great warrior un- 
closed his eyes in a manner which seemed to suggest 
that he had been sleeping a hound's sleep and said : 

' Ho, stranger, tell me your name and horde." 
Then Diuk told him all the truth. 

" Why, then," asked Ilya, " have you roused me 
from my heroic sleep. Do you wish to go with me 
out upon the open plain and see which of us shall 
carry home the head of the other ? ' 

" Nay," said Diuk in great haste. " Why should 
I fight with Ilya upon the open plain ? Death will 
not come to you in battle. As there is one sun in 
the daylight sky and one moon in the dark blue 
heavens, so there is one Ilya of Murom in Holy 

This speech was courteous enough and fitting 
for the mouth of a young hero, and it pleased Ilya 
mightily. He sprang at once to his nimble feet, 
caught Diuk by his white hands, kissed him upon 
his sugar lips, and swore with him eternal friendship, 
making the solemn exchange of the cross. And 
Diuk thought no more of home or of his lady mother 
and her tears of loneliness. 

Then the young hero and the old sat down in the 


fair pavilion and ate and drank well but not too well ; 
and when that memorable feast was ended, Ilya 
said to Diuk : 

" Go now alone upon your way to Kiev town, 
and if any one there shall mock at you send me word 
of it. But do not take your part when the boasting 
time shall come." 

With a heart full of hope and youthful expecta- 
tion, Diuk rode on alone to Kiev town ; and when he 
came there Rough-Coat leapt over the walls and flew 
like a whirlwind to the palace of white stone. In the 
courtyard Diuk leapt lightly to the ground, planted 
the butt end of his spear in the soil, and flung his 
bridle over the point. Then he looked up and saw 
the Princess Apraxia looking out of the window and 
said out loudly, The washerwoman, I suppose." 
But he also bowed to her and asked, " Where is 
Prince Vladimir, the Fair Sun of Kiev ? ' 

Thereupon the Princess Apraxia raised her head 
with a look of scorn and passed into the shadow of 
her apartment ; and it was the serving men in the 
courtyard who answered the young man's question. 
" Royal Vladimir," they said, "is on his way to the 
Easter Mass." So Diuk mounted Rough-Coat once 
again and rode off to the Cathedral. At the great 
door he let his horse go free and entered the hall of 
the ambassadors, but he did not bow to North, South, 
East, and West and especially to any one, but gazed 
about and scanned the faces of all the congregation. 
When the service was over the courteous prince sent 
a messenger to invite the strange youth to the palace, 



and to this man Diuk replied lightly and by no means 
courteously : 

" You have lately been favoured in these parts 
with spring weather and my embroidered garments 
are befouled with the mire of the plain." This he 
said to show his magnificence, for he was splendidly 
clad, as befitted his ancestry, and he knew it. So he 
went to the banquet-hall, his steed following after 
him ; and when he came within the place he bowed 
to Prince Vladimir until his golden curls swept the 
red brick floor. Then he stood upright and looked 
about him, and having looked he shook his head 
doubtfully and slightingly, for to his eyes accustomed 
to the shining splendour of India the Glorious the 
palace was mean beyond compare. 

But he sat down with another shake of his head, 
wondering upon what meal of frozen oats his fine 
steed was being regaled and eyeing with scorn the 
tables of white oak with their cloths patterned with 
drawn- work of white thread, the handiwork of the 
Princess Apraxia. He ate and drank well, however, 
and when he showed more contentment, Vladimir 
asked him courteously if it were a long journey from 
India the Glorious to Kiev town. 

"I set out at vespers on Holy Saturday," said 
Diuk lightly, " and as you know, I have been at early 
Mass in Kiev town this Easter day." 

" And can you buy such steeds as yours cheaply 
in India the Glorious ? ' asked Prince Vladimir 
still courteously. 

" Oh," said Diuk lightly still, " we have them at 


a rouble, or two roubles, or six roubles, or even 
seven, but Rough-Coat is priceless and not to be 
purchased by the wealthiest trader." Then he 
thrust his hands into his belt and stared about the 
room, while a great hush fell upon the company. 

But one of the heroes of Holy Russia rose slowly 
to his feet and said heavily : " My lord, Prince 
Vladimir, I have travelled far from Kiev town and 
have been even to India the Glorious. And I know 
without hearsay that by the straight way for heroic 
travellers it is a journey of three months, but by 
the round way for merchants it is a six months' 
passage and more, indeed, unless on the way the 
traveller springs from horse to horse, making no 

To this speech courteous Prince Vladimir said 
nothing in reply. The guests looked at each other 
at a loss for the next event, and then feeling hungry 
and thirsty again fell upon the banquet with heroic 
strength. But Diuk sat at the board sad and silent 
until Vladimir spoke to him. 

" What ails your sad heart, bold youth ? ' he 
asked gently. " Is the feast not to your taste ? 
Or do you fear the boasting time which is surely 
coming, when you shall have nothing of which you 
may brag ? ' 

" Prince Vladimir," said Diuk, ' ' I am wealthier 
far than you are. For my father left me great riches, 
and I am used to fine white bread made from flour 
of Turkish wheat." 

Then courteous Prince Vladimir ordered his 


servants to bring wine of the greenest and cakes of 
wheaten flour. Diuk drank one half of the wine and 
poured out the rest upon the table as if its value 
were of no account, and some of the dogs licked the 
drops and then lay down to sleep. He took off the top 
crust of the fine wheaten cakes, ate the middle, and 
flung the rest to the other dogs. And even yet 
courteous Prince Vladimir blamed him not at all. 

But another Russian hero sprang to his nimble 
feet and cried, What boorish fellow is this ? He 
is not really Lord Diuk from India the Glorious, 
and for the first time to-day this fellow has drunk 
green wine and eaten fine wheaten cakes. He is a 
cow-herd, a fugitive serf from the castle of some 
nobleman, who has done his master to death, dressed 
himself in his embroidered garments, and stolen his 
goodly steed. He is not of noble birth, for as he 
walked I noticed that he looked not straight before 
him but at the shoes upon his feet. He has come 
here in order that you, Prince Vladimir, may feast 
him honourably and then give him a rich gift in 
accordance with your courteous custom." 

" I desire no treasure which can be given to me 
here," cried Diuk, ' for I have wealth untold at 
home, and rich food and green wine in abundance. 
I had heard tales of wonder concerning Kiev city 
and came here to test the truth of what I had heard. 
But it is not with you as it is with us in India the 

And even yet Prince Vladimir parted not from 
his courteous bearing but said gently : 


" Why did you stare about the church at Mass 
this Easter morning, instead of reverently bowing 
your head in the company ? ' 

" I stared about, Prince Vladimir," said the young 
man, " because I had heard tales of Kiev churches 
and of the richness of their beauty. But in this 
matter also, it is not with you as it is with us in India 
the Glorious. Your churches are of wooden beams 
with domes of timber, but ours are of stone with 
roofs of beaten gold. Our meanest houses are finer 
than your palaces of white stone. Your streets 
are foul with mire, but ours are cleanly swept and 
strewn with dry yellow sand. 

The steps of your royal palace," went on Diuk, 
1 are of black stone with railings of turned wood 
fastened together with pegs of wood, and these 
rough pegs, as I know to my annoyance, catch the 
flowing robes of those who mount the steps. But 
the steps of my palace in India the Glorious are of 
smoothest ivory, and are spread with rugs of silk 
from Samarcand, while the railings are of polished 
ruddy gold on which no speck of dust is allowed to 

" The floor of this banquet-hall is of rough, uneven 
pine planks, and even these rough boards are a luxury 
for the high table and the great corner, while the 
rest of the hall is paved with coarse red brick. Your 
walls and ceiling are unpainted, your tables are of 
oak, and the cloths laid upon the most exalted are 
patterned with drawn threads. But the floors of 
our hall are of smooth ash timber in every part, 


laid with great evenness, our walls and ceiling are 
painted in the richest colours, while our tables are 
of gold when they are not of ivory. Over my lady 
mother's doorway are seventy pictures of holy saints 
shining in glorious colours, while you have only 
ten. From our churches to the palace are laid 
pavements of hard smooth wood, spread with scarlet 
cloth, but your pathways are so miry that they soil 
the embroidered garments of a Prince." 

Even yet Prince Vladimir remained courteous, 
and all he said in reply was : 

Why did you throw away some of my green 
wine and a portion of my wheaten cakes ? ' 

' For a good reason," returned the young lord ; 
' I could not eat your cakes, for the upper crust has 
a flavour of pine wood, while the lower tastes of clay, 
so that I knew at once that your ovens are built of 
brick and your oven brooms are made of pine twigs. 
But in our palace in India the Glorious the ovens 
of my lady mother, which are under her own care, 
are made of hard glazed tiles, while her oven brooms 
are of silk dipped in honey dew. If a man eats one 
of my mother's cakes he leaves no crumb behind, 
and his whole desire is to eat more. Your wines 
taste of damp and their flavour is foul. But my 
mother's wine-cellars and their contents are the 
wonder of India the Glorious. She has wines which 
saw the dawn of history, and these are kept in casks 
of silver with hoops of gold, which are hung on chains 
of brass in bricked-out caves of forty fathoms' depth ; 
and from these great caves run open pipes under- 


ground to let in the fresh sweet air from the plain ; 
and when the strong winds play about the open ends 
of these pipes the silver casks swing to and fro and 
make a murmur like that of snowy birds playing 
upon the bosom of a peaceful lake. So we have 
wine which cannot be described but must be tasted, 
and if a man drinks one cup thereof he leaves no 
drop behind, for there are no dregs in this liquor, 
and his whole desire is to drink more. 

' As for the embroidered garments of my lady 
mother, the store in her presses and cupboards 
cannot be valued. At all times the sewing women 
are busy, stitching, stitching, stitching, and when 
one group grows weary, another takes up the work. 
My lady mother's under-robe is set with precious 
stones, while the bodice is of cloth of gold ; her cap 
is covered with fair seed pearls with jewels of 
marvellous lustre and priceless value set in front, 
and as for myself I wear a dress one day, but woe 
unto my body-servant if I see it again. Your horses 
are fed on frozen oats, but ours are regaled on fine 
Turkish wheat. Beneath our palace are twelve deep 
cellars filled with ruddy gold, white silver, and fine 
seed pearls, and the contents of one cellar alone 
would be sufficient to buy up the whole of Kiev 
town and Chernigof as well." 

At last Vladimir was a little moved. " I wish 
that Churilo the Exquisite were here, for he would 
know how to reply to your boasting." Even as he 
spoke the white oaken doors of the banquet-hall 
were flung open, and Churilo the Exquisite entered 


with a graceful bow to North, South, East, and West, 
and especially to Prince Vladimir, but not at all to 
Diuk from India the Glorious. But that young 
man was not thereby abashed. 

" I have heard," he said, " even in far-away 
India, the fame of Churilo's beauty, and truly Rumour 
was no lying wench, for his face is like the rosebud 
for redness and his neck like the driven snow for 
whiteness. But Rumour lied when she praised his 
courtesy ; for he has not learnt how to salute his 

Then the face of Churilo grew redder than the 
full-blown rose, and he cried in anger : " Braggart 
and boaster, son of a slave. Let us lay a wager of 
roubles, a wager of thirty thousand. For the space 
of three years you and I shall live in Kiev, and upon 
every single day of the year each shall wear fresh 
clothes of the richest, and upon every single day 
ride a horse of a different hue. And the wager 
shall pass to him whom all men acclaim as the most 
glorious. This can I do to uphold the honour of 
the court of Prince Vladimir, the Fair Sun of Kiev." 
' It is easy for you to wager such a sum and to 
propose such a test," said Diuk somewhat wearily, 
' for you live at home where your clothes presses 
and your stables are full ; but I am far from home 
and have only one travelling suit which is foul from 
the mire of the dirty ways of Kiev town. But I 
accept your wager." 

Then the young lord sat down at the oaken 
table and called for a parchment scroll on which he 


wrote a letter and a list, a letter and a list for his 
lady mother far away in India the Glorious. Having 
rolled the scroll and sealed it he went out into the 
court where Rough-Coat stood pawing the ground 
impatiently, and placed it in one of the saddle-bags. 
' Haste thee home," he said in the quivering ear of 
the faithful steed, " home to India the Glorious, and 
when you reach the palace of my lady mother neigh 
loudly so that all may hear." 

They saw the good steed while Diuk spoke in his 
quivering ear, but they did not see him when he had 
finished speaking there was only a wreath of smoke 
on the open boundless plain, and he was gone. And 
when the good steed came to the palace of his master 
he neighed loudly, and the lady mother came out 
upon the ivory steps holding the railing of ruddy 
gold with her right hand and her own heart with her 
left, for she saw the empty saddle of Rough-Coat, 
and thought instantly of the worst. But the horse 
neighed again with a joyful note, and when the grooms 
felt in the saddle-bag they found the scroll which 
they gave to their mistress on bended knee. 

Holding herself proudly erect, she read the words 
which Diuk had written, and the colour came back 
to her face and the light of love to her eyes. " The 
foolish boy has boasted as I warned him that he 
must not do, for there is no need for one to boast 
whose splendour is beyond doubt or rival. But I 
must do what I can to redeem his pledged word 
and it may be that his precious life is endangered." 
Then she unbound her golden keys and taking with 


her a band of sewing maidens, she unlocked the 
doors of spacious wardrobes, and packed changes of 
lawn and silken raiment sufficient for three years 
and three days, and so as to afford three changes 
for each day ; and though the number of garments 
was so great the weight of the bales were not too 
heavy a burden for Rough- Coat, so fine was the 
texture of lawn and silk, each garment having stood 
the test of being drawn through a finger ring before 
it was embroidered with gold or silver or fine seed 

When Rough-Coat was duly loaded, the lady 
mother threw an old and much-worn garment over 
all and said : 

" Haste to my precious son, good Rough-Coat, 
and warn him of your coming with a neigh." 

Before long the young Lord Diuk and Churilo 
the Exquisite began their strange contest, riding 
about Kiev town in new garments and upon a fresh 
horse every day. Churilo ordered great herds of 
horses to be driven into Kiev from Chernigof, and 
took much pains to select one of different hue every 
morning ; but Diuk anointed Rough-Coat each 
morning with dew and so changed the colour of its 
coat. For three years this peaceful warfare lasted, 
and then on Easter morning the two combatants 
went to early Mass and stood in the porch of the 
cathedral side by side, but not too close together. 

The garments of Churilo the Exquisite were 
slashed with ruddy burning gold and with white 
gleaming silver. In place of buttons he had clasps 


made in the likeness of handsome youths with loops 
fashioned in the semblance of lovely maidens. So 
high were the insteps of his slippers of green morocco 
that swallows swooping to the earth might easily 
pass under them, while their tips were as sharp as 
the shoemaker's awl. His cap was of softest down 
overshadowing his eyes in front and his white neck 
behind. His over-mantle flung back in youthful 
vanity was of sables of the richest gloss. 

But his opponent stood by his side in the worn 
garment which his lady mother had placed on the 
back of Rough-Coat to protect the bales from the 
weather ; only, beneath this beggar's robe shone 
jewels on his footgear of value greater than that of 
all Kiev, except for the gems upon the statues of the 
Virgin and the Saints in the great cathedral. 

Vladimir came and looked at the young men, 
while Churilo fingered his clasps and loops as if to 
draw attention to their exquisite fashioning ; but 
Diuk looked straight ahead as if he saw right across 
the open steppe to the palace of his lady mother in 
India the Glorious. 

Then the Prince spoke in tones of quiet judgment : 

To our mind," he said, " the young Lord Diuk 

from India the Glorious has forfeited his wager ; 

for such inventions as these clasps and loops have 

never been equalled in the eyes of men." 

The value of the wager," cried Diuk, " is 
nothing to me, but for my renown I am jealous 
enough." Then he threw his worn garment aside 
and stood forth in apparel so wondrous that all the 


watchers fell to the earth, stunned with the sight of 
its shining beauty. At the fore peak of his cap 
shone the sun like ruddy gold ; at the back was the 
moon with shining silver rays ; between the two 
points shone a light as from pearls heaped up in the 

Then he fingered the clasps in front of his 
embroidered doublet which were fashioned in the 
shape of singing birds, and at the touch of his caress- 
ing fingers the birds began to sing. He pulled the 
loops at the edges of his coat which were fashioned 
in the shape of lions and dragons, and at the touch 
of his caressing fingers they began to crawl and 
leap and hiss and roar. When he had finished the 
whole of the company, including Churilo the Ex- 
quisite, lay prone upon the floor. 

Vladimir was the first to rise, and he gasped out 
with his hand to his forehead : " The wager and 
the renown are yours, goodly youth. Now cover up 
your birds and beasts with a garment to which my 
people are more accustomed." And Diuk did so; 
whereupon the people recovered from their stupefied 
astonishment and began to praise Diuk for having 
outdone Churilo the Exquisite in the ingenuity and 
richness of his apparel. And the victor spent the 
thirty thousand roubles on green wine for the 
applauding crowds, which made them applaud him 
still more loudly. 

Now Churilo the Exquisite was a young man of 
determination, and even this defeat did not quench 
his spirit or his ingenuity. As soon as he had 


recovered himself he approached Diuk once again 
and said with great respect : 

* My Lord Diuk, let us make another wager of 
another kind. Let us prove whose horse can leap 
the broad stream of Mother Dnieper, which measures 
two miles across, and let our heads be the stake ; 
the winner to cut off the head of the loser." 

' I have only my travelling nag with me," said 
Diuk, " but I accept the challenge." Then he went 
to Rough-Coat in the stable and told the good horse 
in what danger he stood of losing his head. 

" That is well," said Rough-Coat, in the speech 
of Holy Russia, " for not only will I leap over Mother 
Dnieper, but I will carry you an even distance upon 
the farther shore. I belong to a heroic family, and 
my eldest brother is Cloudfall, the shaggy bay steed 
ridden by Ilya of Murom the Old Cossack, while 
my second brother bears Nikitich upon his adven- 
tures, but my youngest brother is the steed of Churilo 
the Exquisite." 

Without loss of time Diuk saddled Rough-Coat 
and rode far out across the open plain with Churilo 
by his side, riding step by step but not too near. 
Behind them flocked a great crowd of mighty heroes 
of Holy Russia, as well as of the townsfolk of Kiev, 
who had come to watch the manly contest, which 
was much more to their taste than an exhibition of 
clothing and decoration, however ingenious and 
splendid they might be. 

At last they came to the shore of broad Mother 
Dnieper, and both the combatants stood for a moment 


with their hands to their foreheads gazing out across 
the deep water to discover a possible landing-place on 
the farther bank. Then said Churilo the Exquisite : 
1 Do thou leap first, Lord Diuk." 

* Nay," answered the other, * do thou leap 
first, and when we leap together in India, then will 
I take the lead." 

So Churilo put his horse to the stream. The 
younger brother of Rough-Coat left the shore with 
a courageous leap, but came down with a great 
splash in mid-stream. Then Diuk put his horse to 
the stream. The younger brother of Cloudfall left 
the shore with a courageous leap, cleared the river 
and an even space on the farther shore, and then 
turning quickly leapt back again ; and as Rough- 
Coat soared across the broad bosom of Mother 
Dnieper, Diuk stooped and caught Churilo by his 
yellow curls. 

On the banks of the stream the victor prepared 
to cut off the head of the Exquisite ; but all the ladies, 
young and not quite so young, lovely and not quite 
so lovely, who had come out from Kiev, implored him 
to spare the life of the young man. So Diuk merely 
gave him a mighty kick and said : 

" Go, Exquisite, to the women to whom you owe 
your life, and stay with them ; for the men of Holy 
Russia, to say naught of India the Glorious, have no 
need of such as you." 

Churilo the Exquisite had not yet parted with 
the whole of his ingenuity, and he turned to Prince 
Vladimir : 

' Diuk stooped and caught Clmrilo by his yellow curls' 

Tl! ' 


" My Lord," he said, " if this young man is a 
truth-teller, let us send talesmen who can compute 
and count to India the Glorious, to make lists of all 
his boasted possessions in treasure and goods and 
herds and flocks." 

" Whom shall we send ? " asked Prince Vladimir. 

" Let Alyosha go," answered Churilo. 

" Nay," said Diuk quickly, " Alyosha shall not 
go ; for he hath greedy eyes and pilfering fingers, and 
he will never, I assure you, come back again to Kiev 
town." Then he sat down at the table of the banquet 
hall, where the whole company was now gathered, 
and wrote a message upon a parchment and fastened 
it to one of his flaming arrows. To this he whispered 
a word of direction, and then, fitting it to his bow, 
he shot it forth from the open window across the 
boundless plain. The winged messenger found Ilya 
of Murom near the door of his pavilion where he 
was resting with Nikitich, and as soon as he had read 
the scroll the Old Cossack said to his wise companion : 

" Go thou to Diuk in Kiev town and tell him 
that, if Nikitich is not an army in himself, then Ilya 
will come who is a host." 

As soon as he saw Nikitich, Diuk's eyes shone 
with welcoming pleasure. ' Ah, Nikitich," he said, 
" you shall go as talesman with two others to India 
the Glorious, to make lists of all my possessions in 
treasure and goods and herds and flocks. 

" Take parchment sufficient for three years and 
three days," the young man went on, " and I promise 
you in prophecy that you will do homage to my 


servant-maids, mistaking each of them in turn for my 
lady mother." Then he laughed gently as one who 
wins a fight by putting aside with naked arm the 
ponderous mace of his adversary. 

The three talesmen set out at once, followed by 
three waggons heaped with parchment ; and after 
many wanderings and not a few adventures Nikitich 
came to India the Glorious, on the verge of which 
they climbed a lofty mountain, from whence they 
beheld the land lying before them. 

" Why, the country burns ! ' cried Nikitich in 
fearful amazement. But when they drew nearer 
they saw that it was only the glow of the golden roofs 
and the temple domes, blended with the colour of 
the yellow pathways spread with ruddy scarlet cloth. 
In the midst they saw the white stone palace of Diuk, 
which had three-and-thirty towers, whose rounded 
roofs were covered with green copper which is more 
precious than fine gold. Round about the gleaming 
palace spread a lovely garden, delicious in the cool- 
ness of its greenery, planted with all kinds of fruit 
trees, and surrounded by a high railing of gold pillars, 
set with knots of green copper and broken here and 
there with gates of brass. About the pathways of 
this pleasure - ground and in the verandahs of the 
palace walked the loveliest of maidens, attended by 
resplendent gallants, who played upon their musical 
instruments and sang gay songs of love and valour. 

The talesmen were so much struck with wonder 
and amazement that it was a long time before they 
could summon up their courage to enter the palace 


garden, at whose gates no guards were set. At last 
they did so, and came to the first of the three-and- 
thirty towers, where they found an aged woman who 
looked as if she was the mother of a goodly son. 
Her dress was of silver thread mixed with a little 
silk, and her bearing had so much dignity that 
the visitors from Kiev found themselves bowing 
down before her almost without knowing what they 
were doing. 

" Hail to thee ! ' said Nikitich, " thou honour- 
able mother of the young Lord Diuk." 

" I am not my lord's mother," said the ancient 
woman, " I am the keeper of his cows." 

Then the talesmen were so much filled with 
vexation and shame that they left the palace garden 
and went out into the open plain, where they pitched 
a tent and went to bed without saying a word to 
each other. 

On the next morning they came again and drew 
near to the second of the three-and-thirty towers, 
where they found an aged woman of comely face 
clad in cloth of silver and gold. 

" Hail to thee ! " said Nikitich brightly, " thou 
honourable mother of the young Lord Diuk." 

" I am not my lord's mother," said the aged 
woman, " I am his washerwoman." 

Swallowing their confusion the three talesmen 
went on, wondering no longer that Diuk had mistaken 
the Princess Apraxia for the washerwoman of Prince 
Vladimir ; and they fared in the same manner 
before the cook, the women of the bedchamber, the 



baker of cakes, and the nurse, until the last took 
pity upon their despair and told them that the lady 
mother of their lord had gone to High Mass, and that 
they would be able to distinguish her when she left 
the church by three certain signs. Before her 
would come a great army of men armed with shovels, 
and then another army with brooms to make all 
clean on the pathway, and then a third army laying 
cloth of brilliant scarlet upon the tawny sand. Last 
of all would come the mother of young Lord Diuk, 
with a great company of lovely maidens round about 
her. " And when you go into the town," the nurse 
concluded, " you must not salute all the ancient 
ladies in fine raiment like mine, for there are so many 
of us thus arrayed that we pay little heed to it. And 
if you do reverence to all of us your back will remain 
bent like the bow of Ilya of Murom." 

The talesmen went on their wondering way and 
in due time met the mother of the young Lord Diuk, 
preceded and attended as the nurse had told, and 
dressed in garments of rich but quiet beauty. Before 
her the three men bowed, and in pleasant tones she 
asked why they had come to the city. 

" Your son sent us as talesmen," was the answer, 
" to make lists of all his possessions in treasure and 
goods and herds and flocks." 

" That is beyond your powers," said the lady ; 
" but come first of all to partake of my hospitality, 
and then I will show you whatever you choose to 


So they went to the feast of rich food and richer 


wine, and they ate of the fine wheaten cakes baked 
by the mother of the young Lord Diuk, and left no 
crumb behind. When they were well satisfied, the 
lady mother showed them her son's horses ; and they 
took parchment and tried to count up their value 
in roubles, but the figures confused their eyes and 
vexed them so that they gave up the task. Then she 
showed them the shoes of her son ; and they took 
parchment again and tried to tell the tale of their 
value, but once more they gave up in despair. After 
that she led them to the wine-cellars and to the 
treasury of trappings for horses with the same result. 
At last Nikitich said : ' ' Leave us here, seated before 
this single saddle ornamented with all the jewels of 
India, and let us compute the value of it alone/' 
The lady graciously gave her consent ; and they 
stayed three years over their task of computation, 
but at the end of that time they had not finished one 
tenth of the work. 

Then they sent a message to Vladimir which ran : 

" Sell Kiev for parchment and Chernigof for 
ink, and then we shall perhaps be able to make a 
beginning of computing the possessions of the young 
Lord Diuk." 

When Vladimir had read this message he set out 
with a great company for India the Glorious, and 
Diuk went in his train ; and when they came to the 
palace of the lady mother, they found that not one- 
tenth of its splendour had been told to them. 

As they stood there, three men came before them 
whose forms were withered up like shavings ; and 



they looked long upon them and very earnestly 
before they saw that these men were Nikitich and 
his companions, who had shrunken from grief at the 
greatness of their task and their inability to perform 
it. But the young Lord Diuk consoled them and 
feasted the company right well before they set out, 
still in quiet wonder, on their way back to Kiev 

When they were gone the lady mother turned to 
her son and asked : 

1 Did I not speak truth ? Was there aught in 
Kiev or in the train of Vladimir to compare with 
India the Glorious ? ' 

' Only one thing, lady mother," said Diuk, who 
had seen enough of splendour, " a man and a hero, 
Ilya of Murom the Old Cossack. And for his 
renown I would barter all the wealth of India the 




OF all the mighty heroes of Holy Russia one of the 
mightiest was young Kasyan, the leader of a band of 
forty. Brave he was, without equal, who had fought 
against the accursed Tatars, and had won great 
renown in battle against infidel hordes ; but he had 
never taken the golden crowns nor loved any lady 
except the Dream Maiden, whose image he kept ever 
in his golden heart. For she had come to him in a 
vision ; and whether she were a lily for whiteness, a 
rose for redness, or a violet for darkness he could not 
tell. He knew only that he would know her when 
he met her among the warrior-maids or gentle hearth- 
dwellers of Holy Russia, and that she would know 
him also. But in all his wanderings and among all 
the fair maidens of palace and plain, he had seen no 
living lady who could compare with the Dream 
Maiden; though many a Princess and noble-woman of 
high descent had favoured him secretly or openly, 
and had longed to be hailed as the beauty of his 

On the broad and open plain he assembled his 


band of forty, and they came to a halt in a green 
meadow, dismounted from their nimble steeds, and 
sat down in a ring to tell of adventure and to take 
counsel as to the next journey to be made across the 
boundless steppe. They told many tales of far 
journeys and bold deeds, and boasted of death as 
if it were a pretty plaything. Then when silence fell 
upon them young Kasyan spoke : 

" Greatly have ye sinned against the Most High, 
ye mighty heroes of Holy Russia ; for though ye are 
bold and fearless, ye have made a plaything of death 
and shed much blood without cause. Will you agree, 
one and all, to follow out my plan ? It would be 
better that each of us should now go on a pilgrimage 
to the holy city of Jerusalem, to pray in the Holy of 
Holies, to visit the grave of the Risen Lord, and to 
bathe in Jordan river, for in this way only shall we 
win pardon for our sins. But before we go, it will 
be well if we take a vow the keeping of which will 
prove our heroic strength not to rob or steal, not 
to look with love upon the face of any maiden, and 
not to stain our hands with blood. And if any of 
our band shall break his vow then shall his nimble 
feet be hewn of! at the knee, and his white hands at 
the elbow, his far-seeing eyes shall be darkened, and 
his tongue cut out, and he shall be buried up to the 
breast in moist Mother Earth." 

The heroes agreed at once to the word of Kasyan, 
and rising to their feet loosed their good steeds and 
gave them their freedom. Then they dressed them- 
selves in pilgrims' dress of the hue of the scarlet 


poppy, and slung over their shoulders the beggars' 
wallets of black velvet embroidered in thread of red 
gold and set with fine seed pearls, while on their 
heads they placed the pilgrims' caps. With curving 
staves of walrus tusks in their hands, they set out 
upon their way, travelling by day in the light of the 
glorious sun, and at night in the radiance which came 
from the jewels set thickly in their shoes of fine 
leather. So they passed onward from town to 
town and from city to city until they came to Kiev. 

In the open plain near the city they met Prince 
Vladimir hunting the martens, black sables, white 
swans, grey geese, and downy ducks, and as the 
royal party drew near to them the pilgrims shouted : 
Vladimir, Fair Sun of Kiev, give alms to the 
wandering pilgrims. Not a pittance but a royal 
gift will we take from such as you, even a noble 
benefaction of forty thousand roubles." Then the 
Prince lifted his hand to stay the hunt, and dis- 
mounting from his horse, greeted the holy pilgrims 
with the reverence which he paid to the Saints, and 
begged them to sing in his hearing the sweetest of 
the holy songs, even the psalm of Elena, which he 
was longing to hear. 

So the one-and-forty pilgrims placed their staves 
in damp Mother Earth and hung their wallets upon 
them. Then standing in a circle they sang the 
sweetest of the holy songs, even the psalm of Elena ; 
and as the sound welled upward to the heavens the 
bosom of moist Mother Earth heaved and trembled 
as if with mingled joy and grief, the pine trees shook 


in a neighbouring wood, far away the oak trees upon 
the mountains bowed their heads, and the birds were 
hushed into silence. The Prince was strangely 
moved, and at length could listen no longer, for the 
sound of the holy psalm showed him all that he 
might be as a King and a Leader ; so he held up his 
hand to cause the music to cease, and the one-and- 
forty pilgrims took their wallets from their staves 
and made ready to pursue their journey. 

" I have no roubles with me," said the courteous 
Prince, " nor can I refresh you as you deserve and 
as I desire. But go onward to Kiev town to the 
Princess Apraxia, who in my name will give you 
food and drink and lodging." 

So they journeyed on until they came to Kiev 
town, where they went to the palace and gave the 
pilgrims' cry ; and at this piercing sound from so 
many heroic throats the Princess Apraxia came in 
haste to the window of her apartment, with her 
golden hair all unbound, and thrust herself from the 
window to her waist. Then she saw the young 
Kasyan among the foremost, and knew him for the 
dreamer who had troubled the hearts of so many 
fair ladies ; and there came into her heart a burning 
desire that he should find her as beautiful as the 
Dream Maiden and should tell her so. 

The one-and-forty pilgrims were now conducted 
to an ante-chamber and from thence, after a little 
time, to the great hall, where they bowed to North, 
South, East, and West, and particularly to the Princess 
Apraxia, who was now arrayed more splendidly 


than ever before. She gave them a gracious welcome 
and ordered the cloths with drawn-thread work to 
be laid upon the white oaken tables, and the richest 
of food with the sweetest of drinks to be set before 
her guests. The Princess herself sat at the high 
table with her nurses and ladies and a host of bold 
warrior maids, and Kasyan sat in the great corner. 
He had laid aside his cap and from his fair hair the 
sun seemed to shine, while his eyes rested upon the 
company of ladies for a while, searching diligently, 
after his manner, for the Dream Maiden ; but 
though all the beauty of Holy Russia was now before 
his eyes he turned away, after a while, to contemplate 
the painted pictures of holy saints. 

When the feast was over the pilgrims were con- 
ducted each to his own apartment, where he might 
pray before retiring to rest. Now as Kasyan sat 
in holy meditation the door was opened and the 
Princess Apraxia entered softly. She was dressed 
in a simple robe of gleaming whiteness with a girdle 
of ruddy gold, and holding out her hands she cried 
in quivering tones : 

' Am I not fair as the Dream Maiden, young 
Kasyan ? ' 

' Nay, not so," was the cold answer. " Princess, 
ask Vladimir for his thoughts on your beauty." 
Then the young pilgrim turned aside, and with 
anger in her heart the Princess Apraxia left the 
room. But while he slept she came again very 
quietly, took down his pilgrim's wallet from the 
place where it hung, cut it open and placed within 


it the silver loving-cup from which Prince Vladimir 
always drank when he returned from his hunting. 
Then she sewed up the velvet once more, so neatly, 
that the place of the rent could not be seen. 

Next morning, as the early sun was rising, the 
one-and-forty pilgrims arose, washed themselves in 
cold spring water and prayed to God. The Princess 
was already astir and saw that her guests were well 
supplied. Then having satisfied their heroic hunger, 
they called down a blessing upon Prince Vladimir and 
upon Princess Apraxia, swung their wallets over their 
shoulders and set out for the holy city of Jerusalem. 

A short time after their departure Vladimir 
returned from his hunting, and sat down to appease 
his mighty hunger. Then he called for his silver 
loving-cup, and the stewards searched for it in all 
corners of the palace, but were not able to find it. 
The Prince was very angry, and looking round upon 
his household he asked sternly, "Which of you hath 
taken the royal cup ? ' 

None spoke for a moment, and then the clear, 
cold voice of the Princess was heard. " My Prince 
and Lord," she said, " we feasted yesterday a band of 
one-and-forty pilgrims, in accordance with your own 
desires. It may be that they have stolen the royal 
cup." Thereupon Prince Vladimir gave the word, 
and a company of heroes sprang to their feet, eager to 
ride after the pilgrim band. But as they prepared 
themselves the voice of Ilya of Murom was heard 
from the great corner : 

" These were no psalm-singers," he said, " but 


heroes of the boldest. Whom have we worthy to 
go and outface them." 

' I will send Alyosha alone/' said Vladimir, and 
it was done in accordance with his word, the messenger 
being commanded to speak gently to the pilgrims. 
But when he overtook them he called out in an 
angry voice : 

' Ho, there, ye thieves and robbers. Restore to 
me now without dispute the royal cup which you 
have stolen." 

At this discourteous speech young Kasyan sprang 
to his nimble feet, grasped his travelling staff of 
walrus ivory as if it were his heroic mace and flourished 
it about his head. 

" Think you," he cried in righteous anger, " that 
we went to Kiev town for the royal cup ? Come nigh 
to me and I will punish you as you richly deserve." 

But Alyosha did not dare to come within the 
whirling circle of that ivory cudgel. He wheeled his 
horse about and returning in haste to Kiev told how 
the robbers had set upon him when he asked for 
the cup, and how he had escaped with difficulty from 
their heroic turbulence. 

* Alyosha is a fool of an ambassador," said Ilya 
of Murom, " send Nikitich. He knows how to 
sweeten valour with courtesy." 

So Nikitich mounted his horse at once, and when 
he came to the pilgrims, who were seated in a ring 
on the open plain, he said : 

' All hail, ye one-and-forty holy men. I ask for 
your hospitality." 


' All hail, goodly youth," was the reply, * sit 
with us here and share our humble fare." 

Then Nikitich sat with them, and in hesitation 
began his message. There is great trouble," he 
said gently, " in the palace of Prince Vladimir, for 
the royal loving-cup is mislaid and without it the 
Prince cannot refresh himself after his hunting. 
Let me therefore beg of you, good youths, to look 
within your pilgrims' wallets and see whether it has 
strayed into one of them in error." 

The one-and-forty looked at each other, and then 
forty turned and looked at Kasyan. "It is well, 
good comrades," said their leader, ' to satisfy the 
courteous youth. Open your wallets and show him 
what they contain, for we can do this without fear." 
Thereupon all the pilgrims sprang to their nimble 
feet, opened their wallets and showed Nikitich what 
they contained, but the royal cup was not to be found 
among the forty. Last of all Kasyan opened his 
velvet wallet and, lo ! the loving-cup was found within. 

Then the forty pilgrims looked in anger and 
sadness upon Kasyan. " What shall we do to you 
now, young Kasyan ? ' they asked sternly. " Did 
you not impose the great vow upon us of your own 
choice ? ' 

" Beloved comrades," said their leader, " I did 
not steal the royal cup. Nevertheless do now what 
has been agreed amongst us, and break not your 
great vow for me." 

Then they wept sorely, but they took Kasyan 
and did with him in accordance with their terrible 

' There passed over the boundless white plain an aged saint with 
flowing beard, .... and eyes which shone with laughter' 


vow. After that they prayed to God and went on 
their way once more to the holy city of Jerusalem. 
Young Nikitich stood in silence while the vow was 
performed, and then rode back at great speed to Kiev 
town, where he gave the cup to Prince Vladimir and 
told of all he had seen. When he had finished the 
Princess Apraxia fell in her place to the floor ; and 
when her ladies had restored her she spoke no word, 
but unloosing her golden hair and unbinding her 
golden girdle she went unto the courtyard and lay 
upon the great dung-heap. 

Prince Vladimir now prepared himself to go and 
see the wonder of the fulfilment of the vow. But 
before he could reach the place where Kasyan had 
been buried to the breast in moist Mother Earth there 
passed over the boundless white plain an aged saint 
with flowing beard, ruddy cheeks, and eyes which 
shone with the laughter of boys and girls. With his 
holy hands he restored Kasyan to his completeness, 
his manly strength and youthful beauty, and set him 
again upon his nimble feet, saying : 

' Go thy way, young Kasyan, and thou shalt 
overtake the forty at the first inn upon the way to 
the holy city of Jerusalem. Pray in that holy city, 
visit the grave of the risen Lord and bathe in 
Jordan river. And when you come home again build 
a cathedral church to St. Nicholas, who loves all 
men and especially youths and maidens." Then the 
old man vanished from sight ; it was only a snow- 
wreath driven before the winter wind across the white 
world and he was gone. 


Young Kasyan went on his way and late on 
that same evening he overtook his companions, who, 
when they saw that he was much more comely than 
he had ever been, rejoiced over him and praised God 
for His goodness. Meanwhile Prince Vladimir had 
come to the place where young Kasyan had been 
buried and found a deep pit only, whereupon he and 
his company returned in wondering amazement to 
Kiev town. 


Once more the one -and -forty pilgrims home 
returning stood at the gateway of Prince Vladimir's 
palace, asking alms in the name of the Risen Lord. 
Then the Prince begged them with reverence to enter 
his great hall and partake of his hospitality, and they 
came within the portals. But before they sat down 
to meat Kasyan asked that he might be taken to the 
Princess, who still lay upon the dung-heap, and 
whom when he saw in her sorrow and debasement he 
breathed upon with his holy breath. Then he laid 
his white hand upon her lowly head and pardoned her, 
and she arose, arrayed herself, and had never seemed 
so fair in the eyes of her lord, Prince Vladimir. 

Then after feasting and quiet merriment the one- 
and-forty pilgrims went to their own home ; and 
young Kasyan raised a cathedral church to St. 
Nicholas, who loved all men and especially youths 
and maidens ; and for himself he spent his time in 
holy deeds and in ministration to the poor, loving 
always the Dream Maiden only and keeping her ever 
in his golden heart. 




STAVR the Noble lived in Chernigof, and when the 
daughter of Prince Vladimir was honoured at her 
father's feast he was among the guests but took no 
part in the boasting. For he sat all silent while the 
heroes praised their heroic chargers, their mighty 
strength, or their rich store of treasure, and while 
the merchants bragged of their great wealth of 
Siberian fox-skins or sables. Now when the Prince 
saw Stavr sitting all silent, he poured out with his 
own royal hands a cup of green wine and brought it 
to him, courteously inquiring why he would neither 
eat nor drink. 

" You do not eat of the white swan, Lord Stavr," 
he said, * nor do you make any boast along with 
the others. Have you then no towns with wide 
suburbs, or villages with subject hamlets, nor yet a 
good mother, nor a beautiful young wife of whom 
you may make your boast ? ' 

" I have enough of which I might boast," said 
Stavr. " What petty town is this of Kiev ? My 
palace alone covers five miles, my halls of white oak 



are hung with pelts of the grey beaver, the roof with 
skins of the black sable. The floors are of silver 
and the locks and bars are of steel. 

" Furthermore, Prince Vladimir, I have thirty 
young men in my hire, each one a master shoe- 
maker. With never a pause the thirty continue 
making shoes, and I wear a pair for one day and only 
by a chance wear them a second day. After I have 
cast off a pair of these shoes they are taken to the 
market and sold to some prince or nobleman for 
their full value. I have another thirty young men 
in my hire, each one a master tailor. With never a 
pause the thirty continue making coats, and I wear 
a coat for one day and only by a chance wear it for 
a second day. After I have cast off one of these 
coats it is taken to the market and sold to some 
prince or nobleman for its full value. But I am no 

" Moreover," he went on, after a short pause- for 
breath, " I have a mare with a golden coat which 
cost at a market price five hundred roubles. On the 
best of her foals I ride abroad myself, while the worst 
are sold to princes and nobles, who are delighted 
when they get them. But I am no boaster." 

" Yet there is one treasure," he continued, " of 
which I will boast, and that is my wife Vasilissa, who 
could buy all Kiev town in one market and sell it 
in the next, who could by her wiles deceive the 
most dignified princes and nobles, and drive even 
Prince Vladimir out of his mind." 

For a moment no one among the guests spoke 


a single word, but Prince Vladimir sat in his place 
with ever darkening brow. Then some of the men 
about him said : 

" Prince Vladimir, Fair Sun of Kiev, it is not 
meet to permit this boaster to flout us all. Let him 
be cast into a cold, dark dungeon, and then let his 
young wife Vasilissa buy all Kiev town in one market 
and sell it in the next, let her by her wiles deceive 
us all, and let her, if she can, drive even Prince 
Vladimir out of his mind." 

The counsel seemed wise to the Prince, and he 
ordered his guards to fasten iron fetters on the feet 
and hands of Stavr, and to place him in a cold, dark 
dungeon, with doors of iron and locks of steel, and 
there feed him on frozen oats and cold spring water. 
This was done forthwith, but while the Prince's 
command was being performed the body-servant 
of Stavr took horse and rode homeward to Chernigof , 
where he found Vasilissa presiding at a great feast 
which she had made for the wives of the rich traders 
and the councillors of the town, including also the 
wife of the Elder, who was of great consequence. 

When the young Vasilissa heard the news from 
Kiev town she rose in her place at the board and 
said : 

"It is time, good dames, that ye went to your 
own dwellings." 

Then they all did so without a word, and Vasilissa 
sat pondering for the space of three full hours. ' It 
is not a matter of ransom, however high the offer," 
she said to herself, " nor of force, however great 


and courageous, but it is a matter for a woman's 


Then she rose in her place, went to her own 
apartment and summoned the ladies of her wardrobe. 
* My trusty maids," she said, ' cut off my red 
gold hair, dress me like an envoy to a prince and 
prepare for me a heroic steed. I go now as ambas- 
sador from Kodol Island to Prince Vladimir, the 
Fair Sun of Kiev, asking the hand of his daughter 
Lovely in honourable marriage." 

In a short space of time she was ready, shorn and 
dressed like a goodly gallant and a prince's envoy. 
Then they brought her heroic steed, and she rode 
off, surrounded by a brave body-guard of forty 
youths of the stoutest, across the open, boundless 
glorious plain, and as she rode she trilled a merry 

Half of the journey was accomplished when the 
party met a rider whose face was sternly set towards 
the city of Chernigof. They greeted him courteously, 
and reining in his horse he asked the leader of the 
party who he was and where he was going. 

' I am the ambassador of King Yetmanuila 
Yetmanuilovich," was the answer, " and I am on my 
way to collect tribute from any princes who value 
their lives above roubles. Whither away, yourself ? ' 
' I am the messenger of Prince Vladimir," 
returned the other, " and I am on my way to lock 
the doors of Stavr's palace of white stone, and to 
conduct his young wife Vasilissa to Kiev town." 

" You are too late," said the youths of the body- 

'She put her good steed to the walls and leapt lightly over them ' 


guard, " for the Lady Vasilissa has left the palace 
of her husband and has gone away to a distant 

The messenger thanked the young men for their 
news, and turning his steed, rode swiftly back to 
Kiev town, where he informed his royal master that 
an ambassador from the stern King Yetmanuila 
Yetmanuilovich was on his way, with a strong body- 
guard, to collect tribute from any prince who valued 
his life above roubles. At this intelligence Vladimir 
was sorely troubled, but gave orders that the streets 
of Kiev should be cleaned without delay, and that 
logs of wood should be placed across the muddy 
holes, so that a fair passage might be afforded to the 

When Vasilissa reached the outskirts of Kiev 
town she put her good steed to the walls and leapt 
lightly over them into the courtyard of Vladimir's 
palace of white stone. Then she leapt from her horse, 
thrust the butt end of her spear into moist Mother 
Earth, and flung the bridle over the point. With 
the stride of a bold envoy she passed the guards 
without greeting, and came into the royal hall, where 
she bowed to North, South, East, and West, and 
especially to Prince Vladimir. Then she turned 
to the Prince, and making known her name as 
Vasily Mikulich, the envoy of King Yetmanuila 
Yetmanuilovich, she demanded the hand of Prince 
Vladimir's daughter Lovely in honourable marriage. 
The Prince looked earnestly at the bold wooer and 
then said : 


! It is well. I will give you the hand of my 
daughter Lovely in honourable marriage." 

Then, after due notice had been given, he went 
in state to his daughter's apartment to tell her with 
all the solemnity which the occasion demanded, 
that he had chosen for her a goodly husband whose 
claim upon her love was supported by a strong body- 
guard of forty good youths. 

But Lovely looked with a smile at her royal 
father, and then looked again with a laugh. Why, 
father," she said, " this is no bold ambassador from 
the Island of Kodol or elsewhere ; from King 
Yetmanuila Yetmanuilovich or any other stern-eyed 
monarch. It is a woman. Why, when he walks in 
the courtyard I think of a duck in the pond. When 
he speaks I think of the note of a flute. When he 
walks in the palace I think of the dance, and when he 
sits on the bench of white oak he presses his feet 
close together. His hands are lily white with taper 
fingers, and upon them the marks of rings are plainly 
to be discovered." Then Lovely laughed and 
laughed again, and the sound was not pleasant to 
Prince Vladimir, the Fair Sun of Kiev, who walked 
away to the window. 

" I will prove her," he said, after pondering for 
a time. Then he left the apartment and came to 
the ambassador. " Will it please you," he said 
courteously, ' to accept the challenge of my heroes 
to a shooting match ? ' 

" I have longed for many things," was the quick 
reply, " but for none so much as to receive such a 


challenge." Then without further delay they went 
out upon the open plain and began to shoot at an 
oak tree standing at a distance of about a mile. One 
shot and another shot, one struck and another missed, 
the shooting was good and not so good, and the old 
oak merely shook its smaller boughs as if a summer 
breeze were blowing. 

Then it came to the turn of the ambassador 
from the stern King Yetmanuila Yetmanuilovich, 
and stepping forward the envoy said, ' I will not 
shoot with one of the heroic bows of Kiev. I have 
within the fair white linen pavilion in which I have 
lodged my brave body-guard a little bow which I 
always carry with me when my royal master sends 
me upon an embassy across the open steppe." Then 
at a hail from the envoy the brave body-guard brought 
out the bow. Five of them carried it at one end 
and five at the other, while the remaining thirty 
bold youths dragged along the quiver filled full of 
flaming arrows. Then the ambassador took the 
little travelling bow in her hand and fitted to the 
bow-string a flaming shaft of steel. 

The cord twanged, Prince Vladimir stepped 
quickly aside, the arrow sang a journeying song and 
shivered the trunk of the ancient oak, so that the sun 
streamed through it. 

' I will prove this ambassador once again," 
murmured Prince Vladimir in his royal beard. " If 
he (she) be a woman he (she) will have no taste for a 
wrestling match." 

Then he got together his strong wrestlers and 


assembled them in a brave company. " Will it 
please you," he said courteously, ' ! bold ambassador 
of the stern King Yetmanuila Yetmanuilovich, to 
try a bout of wrestling." 

1 Have you then bold wrestlers, as well as expert 
bowmen ? ' asked the envoy. " I have often 
wrestled with children during my childhood, and 
I can but make a bold man's effort." Then the 
ambassador grasped two brave wrestlers in one 
heroic arm and three brave wrestlers in the other 
heroic arm, and cracked their skulls together until 
the Prince begged the wrestler with children to 
spare his brave heroes. Then said the ambassador : 

' I came to woo your daughter Lovely, Prince 
Vladimir, and if you will not give her to me with 
your blessing, I will take her with your curse." 

You shall have her by my own consent," said 
the King, " for with such a wooer her own consent 
does not greatly matter." 

Then Prince Vladimir seized the occasion to 
make a great wedding-feast, which lasted with intervals 
for resting for the full space of three days. When 
the feast was over the bride and bridegroom were 
about to be led to the church to take the golden 
crowns, but the ambassador sat sad and silent in the 

: What ails you on your wedding morning ? ' 
asked the father of the bride. 

' I know not," was the reply. " It may be that 
my father has died or my mother, and my heaviness 
is the sign of grief. Perchance I need some music. 


Call the harp players, and let us see if they can dispel 
my heaviness." 

So the harpers were called, and they sang of 
the great deeds of Svyatogor, of Ilya of Murom, 
and of Ivan the son of Golden Tress, but for all 
their skill and sweetness the heaviness of the am- 
bassador was not dispelled. 

' I heard in my own home," he said, when the 
music ceased, " of a skilful player upon the harp of 
maple wood whose name was Stavr of Chernigof. 
Send for him, and let us see if he can dispel my 

" If I do it not," said Vladimir in his royal beard, 
' I shall anger the stern King Yetmanuila Yet- 
manuilovich. If I do it, Stavr may be freed from 
my prison." Yet he did it. 

Then Stavr came, and, standing before the am- 
bassador, plucked the strings of his harp of maple 
wood. And he sang brave songs of heroic victory, 
and gentle songs of constancy in love. As he sang, 
the ambassador began to sleep and dream, and from 
these signs the royal host knew well that his guest 
was pleased and delighted and thankful beyond 
measure. Then with a gentle sigh the envoy woke 
and the music ceased. 

" A boon, O Prince," cried he ; " let Stavr go to 
my white pavilion to entertain my brave body-guard 
as he has entertained me." 

Such a request from one who had paid the 
musician the high honour of dreaming to his music 
could not be refused, and Stavr was allowed to go 


out of the banquet-hall with the ambassador by his 

Now when they came out into the bright sun- 
light and had almost reached the pavilion, Vasilissa 
looked up at her husband and said : 

" Do you not know me, Stavr ? ' 

" Alas and alack ! ' said he, rubbing his eyes, 
" after such a time in such a dungeon I cannot 
recall the faces of far-off years." 

" Stupid," said she. " Do you not know your 
own young wife Vasilissa, of whom you made your 
boast ? " 

" I would know Vasilissa if I had not seen her 
for thirteen years," said Stavr, with a great deal of 
certainty and not a little vexation. 

" Stupider and stupider," said Vasilissa, turning 
away. " I am certain that you would not know her 
after three months." 

Then she went into the pavilion, where she put 
off her ambassador's garments and dressed herself 
as Vasilissa, placing a coif upon her head to hide her 
shortened hair. When she came forth Stavr dropped 
his harp of maple wood upon the lap of moist Mother 
Earth, and taking his young wife by her lily-white 
hands, he kissed her sugar mouth. 

" Let us ride, my fair one," he said, ' ride fast 
and far." 

" Not so," was the reply ; "we shall not steal 
away but march away from royal Kiev town. Let 
us go back to Prince Vladimir, and to Lovely, my 
promised bride." 


So they went back to the Prince and told him all 
their tale. " With good reason did Stavr boast of 
his young wife," he said, with a laugh, and then with 
a frown he added, " but what of Lovely the forsaken 
bride, for whom I chose a husband ? ' 

" She will doubtless be easily consoled," said 
Vasilissa, " and will choose her next bridegroom for 
herself. May he harp as well and boast not so well 
as Stavr of Chernigof." 




PRINCE VLADIMIR lost no occasion of making a royal 
feast, and his banquets were the admiration of Holy 
Russia and of all the white world. To one banquet 
he invited a large number of princes, nobles, mighty 
heroes and their body-guards, as well as a company 
of merchant princes who had bought land with 
their wealth in order that they might be accounted 
gentlemen. The host made good cheer, the food 
was of the richest, the wine of the greenest, and the 
white oak tables gleamed like the newly fallen snow 
on the wide steppe. The stove glowed fiercely, and 
Ilya sat in the great corner honoured of all. 

As the wine-cup passed, the heart of Prince 
Vladimir grew more and more generous, and he 
gave cities to one prince, towns to a second, villages 
to a third, and hamlets to another ; but to Ilya he 
gave a cloak of marten skins with a collar of sables. 
Then the hero arose, left the banquet-hall with the 
cloak held out at arm's length from him, and came 
at last to the kitchen. There he dragged the cloak 
about the brick floor by one sleeve as if he wished to 
defoul it and said savagely : 




"Just as I drag about this cloak of marten skins with 
its collar of sables, I will drag about that poisonous 
serpent Tsar Kalin by his yellow curls. As I pour 
green wine upon this cloak," suiting the action to 
the word, " I will pour out his heart's blood." 

Then a kitchenmaid came with unwashed face 
into the presence of Prince Vladimir, and said without 
preface : " Ilya hath been in my kitchen and hath 
dragged about the brick floor the mantle of marten 
skins with the collar of sables, saying that even so 
would he drag Vladimir by his yellow curls. And 
he has poured green wine upon the mantle, saying 
that even so would he pour out the heart's blood of 
Prince Vladimir." Then wiping her hands upon 
her apron she added, " And I know not what to do in 
the matter." 

Prince Vladimir rose to his feet and his face was 
black with anger. Ye mighty heroes ! ' he cried, 
raising his right hand aloft, " lead Ilya to our dungeon 
and place him behind the iron grating. Pile up 
trunks of oak trees against the door and heap yellow 
sand over all." 

At once a great company of heroes left the banquet- 
hall, and coming to the kitchen stood in a ring 
round Ilya, who smiled at them as a father might 
smile at his boys ; and no man laid hands upon him, 
for he was the pride of them all. * Help us now, 
Ilya of Murom," they said, " or Prince Vladimir will 
visit upon us his sore displeasure." So Ilya, smiling 
still, called Cloudfall, saddled him and rode himself 
to the entrance of the dungeon. There he dismounted 


and let the shaggy bay steed go free, after having 
taken from him his saddle and plaited bridle. 

Then Ilya went down into the dungeon, and the 
heroes set up the iron grating, piled up trunks of oak 
trees at the door, and heaped yellow sand over all, 
as the prince had commanded. After that they 
went back to their host, who praised them for their 
obedience and their expedition ; but Princess Apraxia 
dug a deep passage underground, and with her own 
fair hands carried food of the richest and drink of 
the sweetest to Ilya of Murom the Old Cossack. 
And this went on for three years, until Tsar Kalin 
heard of it, and he was head of the Golden Horde, 
who in all his wanderings had seen no fairer lady 
than the Princess Apraxia, whom he meant to take 
as his own in spite of Prince Vladimir and all his 
band of well-fed heroes. 

Tsar Kalin assembled the Golden Horde, which 
was in number like the yellow sands upon the sea- 
shore, to ride against the royal town of Kiev. Under 
him were forty Tsars and Tsareviches, and forty 
Kings and their heirs, each with a company of forty 
thousand men, and when the host was all assembled 
it stood along the banks of swift-flowing Mother 
Dnieper and round about Kiev town on all sides for 
a distance of a hundred miles all told a goodly 
escort for a fair princess. When all was ready Tsar 
Kalin sat down upon an armless chair in his gold- 
embroidered tent of white linen, and wrote a letter 
in great haste, using a swan-quill pen with molten 
gold in place of ink, and crimson velvet in place of 


parchment. Then he called his best and favourite 
runner and gave the royal letter into his hands. 

" Go," he said, ' to the town of Kiev, falsely 
styled ' royal/ Enter not by the gates of shining 
white oak, but leap over the city wall. Dismount 
not, but riding your charger enter without announce- 
ment the palace of white stone. Set the door wide 
open, but do not close it behind you. Bow not to 
North, South, East, or West, and do no special 
reverence to Prince Vladimir. But stand right over 
against him, and fling this letter upon the table, 
saying to him : 

" Take this letter and ask Nikitich, the young 
man of supernatural wisdom who can both read and 
write, to tell thee what it contains, for it disposes in 
set terms of all your pretensions to royalty. Clean 
all the streets of Kiev town, take down the wonder- 
working crosses of the Holy Temples but leave 
upon the domes the tall fiery darts of Ilya lest Falcon 
the Hunter should still be alive and build stalls for 
horses in the churches. Cleanse also your palaces 
of white stone and prepare beds without number, 
for our host is great. Brew sweet liquors, for our 
thirst is also great, and let cask stand upon cask in 
noble array. For in less than two days Tsar Kalin 
and his great host shall walk the streets of Kiev, and 
our master shall wed the Princess Apraxia." 

The boldness and the careful detail of the com- 
mand caused the heart of Prince Vladimir to sink 
very low, and the best he could imagine was to gain 
time. So he caused Nikitich to write a letter in 


reply, saying : " Cleaning and fermenting are both 
slow processes. I shall need a space of three months 
to prepare this city for its coming guests." Then the 
favourite runner of Tsar Kalin brought this sub- 
missive reply to his master, and the truce was granted. 

Prince Vladimir paced to and fro in his chamber, 
chewing his moustache, and occasionally heaving a 
heavy sigh when no one was near. Meanwhile, the 
cleaning and the brewing were proceeding apace, for 
as Princess Apraxia said quietly, " There is nothing 
lost by cleanliness, and a good store in the larders 
and the cellar, for who knows which of our friends 
will sleep in the clean beds and partake of our 

" Ilya of Murom the Old Cossack is no more," 
said Prince Vladimir bitterly. " There is no hero 
to fight for our faith and fatherland. There is none 
to defend Prince Vladimir." When the busy Princess 
heard these words she paused for a moment in her 
work and said, " Little father, command thy trusty 
servants to go to the deep dungeon and see whether 
Ilya of Murom the Old Cossack be even yet alive." 
Then she went on with her dusting, for the china 
bowls and cups from Farthest East were always her 
own particular care. 

c Foolish princess," said her husband, pausing in 
his pacing to and fro. c If I cut off your light head, 
will it grow again ? How can the youthful aged one 
be alive after three years' starvation ? ' The Princess 
said nothing, but went on with her work, and in a few 
moments Vladimir himself went off to the dungeon 


on the desperate chance. And there, to his wonder, 
he found Ilya lying on cushions of down, with food 
of the richest and wine of the greenest on a table 
beside him, on which was also spread a wonderful 
written parchment of the Holy Gospels. 

Vladimir was so much astonished to find Ilya 
not only alive and well, but to all appearance very 
comfortable and happy, that he bowed to North, 
South, East, and West, and then particularly to the 
hero. " Come forth, Ilya," he said, as if he had taken 
no share in the Old Cossack's imprisonment. ' Come 
forth, and defend us against the Golden Horde, for 
the sake of the widows and orphans which are to be." 
Ilya smiled gently and rose slowly from his seat of 
comfort, for three years' restraint had somewhat 
stiffened him. Then Vladimir hastened to take him 
by the hands, as if he had quite forgiven him for a 
crime which he had never committed, and leading 
him to his own table, placed him in the great corner 
and heaped food of the best before him. 

But Ilya was not hungry, and he left the table 
without a word, for he wanted heroic exercise most 
of all. In the open field he saw Cloudfall grazing 
quietly as though his master had ridden him only 
yesterday ; and you may be quite certain and abso- 
lutely sure that no other rider had during the past 
three years sat on the back of the faithful shaggy 
bay steed. The horse gave a joyful chuckle when 
Ilya once more drew near to him, and as his master 
proceeded to saddle him he turned his head about 
and gazed upon him with heroic approbation. 


Certain of the people of Vladimir's palace saw 
Ilya mount upon Cloudfall, but they did not see him 
as he rode away, so swift was his flight there was 
but a smoke wreath on the open steppe and streams 
of water burst forth where good Cloudf all's hoofs beat 
upon the ground. He gave a great leap upwards and 
alighted on the crest of a lofty mountain, from whence 
he looked out across the open plain to see if any of the 
heroes were within sight who had come out to defend 
Holy Russia against the Golden Horde of the Tatars. 

Far away in the east he saw the white linen 
pavilions of the heroes who had helped him to form 
the barrier against Falcon the Hunter, and the sun 
shone brightly on their golden embroideries. At the 
opening of one snowy tent his keen eyes could descry 
even at that distance how the fine wheat had been 
shaken out upon the earth for the delight of a hero's 
charger, and how that same hero had planted upright 
a spear of heroic height and hung upon it a golden 
tassel, not for vanity of youthfulness, but as a signal 
to all the enemies of Holy Russia that a champion 
abode within that pavilion. As he stood there with 
his hand shading his eyes Ilya saw another hero 
come to that vicinity and, even at that far distance, 
he knew him for the young man of supernatural 
wisdom Nikitich, who could both read and write. 
He saw how the new-comer pitched his pavilion, 
shook out fine wheat for his charger's delight, planted 
a lofty spear and displayed two tassels, not for vanity 
of youthfulness, but to show that a hero and a 
scholar abode in that pavilion. 


Then Ilya came down from the mountain-top, 
and before you could say SVYATOGOR he had arrived 
in the space between the two upright staffs, where he 
gave Cloudfall the rein that he might take his share 
of the fine wheat, planted his own lofty spear and 
hung three tassels upon it, as a sign that a hero, a 
scholar, and a landed gentleman had come to the 
assistance of Holy Russia against the Golden Horde. 
He now entered one of the snowy pavilions, where 
he found twelve Russian heroes sitting at meat, who 
all rose to their feet, kissed him and bade him 
welcome, whereupon they sat down again to go 
forward with the business of eating. But as he was 
not yet hungry Ilya did not join them. He hastened 
to explain his mission, and asked for their help in 
defending Kiev town, Vladimir, and Princess Apraxia. 
But one of them said : 

" Nay, nay, Ilya of Murom, we will not mount 
our steeds to defend Kiev town, Vladimir, and his 
Princess. For he has many princely nobles, whom 
he feasts right heroically and upon whom he bestows 
the richest gifts." 

" It will be the worse for all of you," said Ilya, 
in great anger, and their voices rose in wrath so that 
the good steeds raised their heads from the fine wheat 
and looked with intelligent wonder through the 
opening of the pavilion. 

Meanwhile Vladimir wrapped himself in his 
black velvet mantle, which was trimmed with marten, 
and paced to and fro in his palace in Kiev town, 
for the time of the truce was almost over, and so far 


the heroes had not made their appearance. Now as 
he paced up and down to soothe his anxiety his 
nephew Yermak came to him and begged that he 
might have a warrior's charger, a coat of heavy chain 
mail and a ponderous mace, as well as leave to ride 
against the Golden Horde. 

You are a mere boaster," said Vladimir care- 
lessly. Why, you have never yet handled a mace." 

' If you do not give me the charger, uncle," 
said Yermak, " I will set out on foot." The youth's 
quiet determination had more effect upon Vladimir 
than weeks of persuasion, and he bade Yermak choose 
what charger he desired from the royal stables as 
well as the armour which suited him best from the 
armoury. Off went the youth in great glee and 
equal haste, but the chain mail which he found was 
so rusty that he flung it down with impatience upon 
the brick floor, whereupon all the rust flew from it ; 
so he picked it up, selected weapons to his taste, 
ran to the stables, saddled a horse, mounted it and 
rode at topmost speed to the pavilion of the heroes. 

And what did he find in that hour of anxiety and 
the direst peril ? Why, the twelve heroes contentedly 
sitting playing at draughts upon a board of gold and 
Ilya sound asleep upon a couch under a heavy coverlet 
of sables. Then the anger of Yermak was very great 
indeed, and he shouted with all his might. " Ho, 
there, you Old Cossack, Ilya of Murom. Yonder in 
Kiev city there is bread to eat and to spare, but no 
one to defend the place against the Golden Horde." 

Now Ilya, from force of habit and long practice, 


slept always with one ear open, and he knew also 
that it was a fatal mistake to lose his calmness, especi- 
ally when others about him had lost their own. 
So he turned slowly on his couch and said quietly, 
' Climb up into the damp oak, young Yermak, and 
make an effort to number the host which comes 
against us by counting the standards which are 
displayed.' 3 So Yermak climbed up into the damp 
oak, and Ilya turning upon his other side went to sleep 
once more. From his perch in the damp oak Yermak 
saw a vast host of the Golden Horde, and how at 
that moment the leaders were marshalling their men 
in battle array ; and he knew that the shaking of the 
bough on which he sat came from the trembling of 
moist Mother Earth at the tramp of their myriad 
feet. So great was the army that the swift grey 
wolf could not trot round it in the space of a long 
11 spring day ; the black raven could not fly about it 
in the longest day of summer ; the grey bird could 
not wing its flight across it in the longest light of 

Now Yermak had in him some of the qualities 
of a hero, for the size of the host roused his courage 
to such a height that he felt impelled to advance 
against it by himself, single and alone. So he leapt 
quickly from the damp oak, sprang upon his charger, 
and rode fiercely across the open steppe against the 
vanguard of that great host. Meanwhile the game 
of draughts went quietly on in the fair pavilion of 
white linen, and Ilya slept. For three days and three 
nights this went on while Yermak hurled himself 


again and again against the forefront of the Golden 
Horde. Then Ilya awoke and said to Nikitich : 

' Mount into the damp oak, young man of 
supernatural wisdom. Perhaps young Yermak has 
fallen down from the branch for no longer do I see 
him there." 

Then Nikitich climbed up into the tree-top and 
looked out upon the Golden Horde. He saw the 
vast host and he saw more than that not the black 
raven flying, nor the bright falcon soaring, but that 
heroic youth galloping boldly against the heathen 
horde ; and he made his report to Ilya, who rose 
deliberately from his couch : 

' Rise, ye draught players, and mount your good 
steeds. Then in the first place let one of you take 
grappling hooks and catch young Yermak by the 
shoulders. Say to him when he is stayed in his 
headlong flight, * Thou hast breakfasted to - day. 
Now let the heroes dine.' 

So one of the company went out with strong 
grappling irons. Thrice he caught Yermak by the 
shoulders and thrice did the young man break away, 
rending his chain mail in the action. Then the 
messenger returned to report his failure and Nikitich 
made the attempt with as little success. So Ilya 
went himself. He sat on Cloudfall as the grand- 
father of all the oaks stood upon the lap of moist 
Mother Earth, and caught Yermak by the shoulder 
with his heroic hand saying to him, " Rest your 
heroic heart and let us labour now." 

Then Ilya rode against that mighty host as the 


swift eagle swoops down upon the swans and geese 
or the falcon darts upon the wild duck ; and at the 
place against which Yermak had beaten in vain he 
made a breach in the line and began to hew a path 
through the host as the mower makes a way through 
the thick standing wheat. Then Cloudfall addressed 
him with the voice of a man : 

" Ho, thou mighty hero of Holy Russia ! with a 
heart of steel thou hast advanced against this mighty 
host, but even your great might may not overcome 
it, for that pestilent robber, Tsar Kalin, is served by 
many men of great renown and warrior-maids of 
heroic strength and feminine fierceness. Moreover, 
he is a wily leader, for he has dug three trenches 
across the open steppe and into these you will fall. 
I can lift you out of the first and likewise out of the 
second, but out of the third I may not lift you though 
I should succeed in rising from it myself. For I 
watched them digging the trenches while you were 
sleeping, and, indeed, I missed a great deal of the 
fine wheat while I served you in this manner." 

Such a counsel of despair was not pleasing to the 
heroic Ilya, who grasped his silken whip in his right 
hand and beat Cloudfall soundly upon the flanks. 
" Traitor and renegade," he cried in heroic anger, 
" I feed thee on white wheat and give you water 
from crystal springs and yet you will forsake me in 
the deep ditches of the open steppe." And he paid 
no heed to the warning of the intelligent animal, but 
rolling up the sleeve of his right arm advanced with 
unabated fury against the foe. In a few moments 


he came to the first trench, into which he fell forth- 
with and from which Cloudfall bore him forth in 
safety. On he rode, fighting all the way, until he 
came to a second ditch, and from that also he escaped 
in like manner. Then he advanced again, fighting 
all the way, until he came to the third ditch from 
which Cloudfall leapt nimbly. But he left Ilya 
behind. Thereupon the accursed Tatars leapt down 
into the trench and fell upon Ilya of Murom the Old 
Cossack. They bound his swift feet and his strong 
white hands and led him to where Tsar Kalin sat in 
his pavilion of fair white linen embroidered with gold. 

" Ah, ho ! Ilya of Murom the Old Cossack," 
cried the pestilent leader of the Golden Horde. 
" How could you hope, you old dog, to prevail 
against my mighty host ? ' Then to his guards he 
said, " Unfetter his swift feet and unbind his strong 
white hands." This was done at once, and then Tsar 
Kalin said in a voice of honey : 

" Now sit down at my table, Ilya of Murom. 
Eat of my food and drink of my mead, put on an 
embroidered robe, and marry my daughter. Serve 
Prince Vladimir no longer but be vassal to me." 

Then Ilya's eyes flashed fire like the fire of Falcon 
the Hunter, whose father he was. ' If I had by me 
my good sword," he said, " thou dog, Kalin the Tsar, 
it should woo thy neck. I will do none of these 
things, for my duty is to fight for the Christian 
temples which my darts have protected even against 
my own son Falcon the Hunter, for Prince Vladimir 
and Princess Apraxia and the city of Kiev." 


Then Ilya raised his eyes and listened and a 
voice sounded in his ears, " Lift up thy hands, Ilya." 
He raised them heavenward and into his heroic arms 
came the strength of twenty heroes ; and in that 
strength he fell upon Tsar Kalin and laid his lifeless 
body upon the floor of the fair pavilion. Snatching 
up the monarch's sword he ran from the pavilion to 
turn it against his host, and company after company 
fell before him until his sword edge turned and the 
weapon was useless. Then he flung it aside in 
impatience, and picking up a Tatar by the ankles he 
used him as a club with which he cleared a path 
through the host of astonished warriors. ' It is a stout 
club, this of mine," he cried grimly as he dealt blows 
to right and left ; ' and it has a hard end to it with 
which to crack infidel pates." 

At last he won his way to the edge of the host, 
where he flung his human club from him with a last 
great effort, and seizing the horn which hung at his 
side he sounded a mighty blast ; for the heroic 
efforts he had made had dimmed the clearness of his 
eyes, so that he could not distinguish either the white 
day or the black night. From far away Cloudfall 
heard the sound of that familiar horn and in two 
heroic leaps was once more at his master's side. 
In a trice Ilya had mounted him and then he rode 
away to a lofty mountain upon the summit of which 
he stood and, raising his hand to his brow, gazed far 
away to the eastward. There he saw again the white 
pavilion of the heroes and the horses feeding on the 
fine wheat which was strewn for them. " I will 


send them a swift messenger," said Ilya of Murom 
the Old Cossack. 

As he fitted a fiery dart to his stout bow, 
Ilya conjured it saying, " Fly, little dart, to yonder 
pavilion. Tear through the roof and pierce the 
white breast of my brother -in -arms, Samson, that 
glorious hero of Holy Russia, and make a small 
scratch not a wound which you would bestow upon 
one of the Golden Horde, for the hero Samson 
sleepeth and taketh his ease while I stand here alone 
and have need of his help." 

The shaft made a stream of blue light through the 
air, and reaching the pavilion tore a flaming path 
through the roof, but too quickly for the linen to 
catch fire, and made a small scratch upon the white 
breast of Samson, rousing him from his heavy sleep. 
He opened his eyes, gazed upwards, and saw the 
rent in the roof of the pavilion. Then he was aware 
of a slight discomfort on his breast, looked down, 
saw the scratch, and leapt lightly to his nimble feet. 

" Ho, there," he cried aloud, ' ' ye mighty heroes 
of Holy Russia, saddle your good steeds without 
delay and mount with speed. A message of distress 
has come from my brother-in-arms, and had it not 
been for the cross upon my breast it would have 
honoured me with a wound fit only for one of the 
Golden Horde." 

Roused at last the heroes took their chargers from 
the scattered wheat, saddled them and rode them 
towards Kiev town ; and Ilya noting this from his 
point of vantage came down from the mountain to 


join his twelve brethren, and in a long line of strength 
and swiftness the thirteen heroes rode against the 
Golden Horde. 

For the space of five hours they mowed down 
young and old, and they left at the end of that heroic 
period not so many as one single soul to continue 
the accursed race. Flushed with victory and self- 
confidence, they came together in one place, and all 
except Ilya began to boast and to say, " If there were 
steps raised up to Heaven we would climb them and 
wage war against the sacred hosts." 

As these impious words were spoken there 
happened a wonder of wonders. For the Tatars 
rose up from the field of the slain, and where there 
had been one man there were now three, and they 
all stood up strong and well upon their feet ; and if 
Ilya had not accounted for Tsar Kalin their advance 
upon Kiev town would have been sudden and over- 
whelming ; but they turned hither and thither like 
the sands of the desert, having no leader. 

Now as the heroes saw them rise, man after man, 
three in place of one, they rubbed their eyes in wonder, 
and the impious words which they had spoken 
dazzled their sense and confused their wits, so that 
they turned their arms against each other and 
fought with the fury of sundered friends. But Ilya 
took no part in that unnatural fight. Sadly and 
dazedly he watched until the twelve lay dead upon 
the plain. Then he slowly turned his shaggy bay 
steed Cloudfall and rode towards a mountain cave 
which no man has ever seen or shall see till the end 

A mountain cave- which no man has ever seen ' 



of Holy Russia ; and sitting in that cavern with his 
sword across his knees he slowly turned to stone. 
Cloudfall also became a lifeless statue, and there the 
two heroic friends sit on, waiting, waiting, waiting 
for the touch of life which will come when Holy 
Russia is in direst need and calls aloud in distress 
for the courage and skill, the patience and the fiery 
valour of Ilya of Murom the Old Cossack. 












IN a certain kingdom in a certain land known to all 
of us lived the Great White Tsar and his wife Golden 
Tress, who was so beautiful that twice each day she 
caused the sun to blush a rosy red, once in the 
morning as he rose across the steppe, and once in the 
evening as he bade farewell to the white world ; 
but for the rest of the day he asserted his kingship 
even over Golden Tress, and looked at her boldly 
and whenever he wished. 

Now the Great White Tsar and his Tsaritza, 
Golden Tress, had three sons, Peter, Vasily, and Ivan, 
and one great enemy, Whirlwind the Whistler, whom 
he feared greatly, because this impetuous foe had 
vowed with a shriek and a howl to come at sunset 
and whirl away Golden Tress from the palace of the 
Little Father. 

One evening Golden Tress went out w r ith a 
company of maidens and nurses to walk in the 
gardens of the palace, and Whirlwind saw his chance. 



He rushed down upon the palace garden, blinding 
the eyes of all so that they could not see what tricks 
he was playing ; and when the maidens and nurses 
opened their eyes they saw r nothing at all and heard 
nothing at all except a far-off call of distress and a 
shriek of spiteful fury ; for Whirlwind the Whistler 
had carried away Golden Tress to his den among 
the fastnesses of the mountains, while the trees 
bowed in fear before him as he took his way across 
the open steppe. 

The Great White Tsar was now in deep distress, 
and knew not what to do. Years went by and still he 
knew not what to do, but one day it occurred to him 
to ask the help of his sons, who were now grown into 
fine young men. " My dear boys," he said, " which 
of you will go and seek Golden Tress ? ' We will 
go, and at once, father," said the two elder brothers, 
and without delay they set out upon their quest. 

When they had been gone for some time the 
youngest son, Ivan, said to his father, " Let me go 
also, my father, to seek Golden Tress." ' No," 
said the Tsar, " for you are all I have in the white 
world." " Do let me go also," said Ivan, "for I 
long to wander over the white world and seek my 
mother." The father did his best to persuade his 
boy to stay with him, for he was now very lonely, 
but when he saw that Ivan could no longer rest at 
home he yielded to his entreaties, saying to him, 
" Well, there is no help for it ; go, and may the God 
of Holy Russia be good to you." 

Ivan without delay saddled his good steed, 

Whirlwind the Whistler carries away (lolden Tress 


entered the audience chamber of his father, bowed 
to North, South, East, and West, and particularly to 
the Great White Tsar, mounted his horse and rode 
on and ever onward across the steppe, whether it 
was long or short. By and by he came to a forest 
in the heart of which stood a lordly castle protected 
from the keen winds by a ring of encircling pines. 
Ivan rode into the broad courtyard, where he met an 
old man and greeted him kindly with the words, 
" Many years and years of health to you." Who 
are you, goodly youth ? ' asked the old man, and 
Ivan said quietly and proudly, " I am Ivan Tsarevich, 
son of the Great White Tsar and his Tsaritza, Golden 
Tress." " Oh, my very, very own nephew," said 
the old man ; " and whither is God leading you ? ' 

' I am in search of my mother, Golden Tress," 
said Ivan. " Can you tell me, uncle, where she may 
be found ? " 

" No, nephew, I cannot," returned the old man, 

' and that to my sorrow and discomfiture. But what 
I am able to do I will do willingly. Here is a ball. 
Throw it before you as you ride. It will roll onward 
and lead you to a range of steep rugged mountains. 
In the side of this range of mountains you will find 
a cave which you must enter, and having entered 
you will find within a pair of iron claws." 

Take these iron claws," the old man went on, 

1 and place them upon your hands and your feet. 
This will enable you to climb up the steep face of 
the mountain, and having done so, perhaps you will 
find there your mother, Golden Tress." 


This was good advice so far as Ivan was able to 
judge, so he took the ball in his hand, thanked his 
uncle courteously, and, starting his horse on the path 
which led through the pine forest, threw the ball 
before him. Onward and ever onward it rolled, 
but it seemed something more than a mere ball, 
for occasionally it came to a parting of the ways and 
then appeared to pause for a moment and consider. 
Then onward and ever onward it rolled, while Ivan 
rode behind it until he came out at last upon an open 
plain where a great horde was encamped ; and in 
the midst of the horde stood a fair pavilion of white 
linen embroidered with gold. The ball made a 
path through the ranks of the men-at-arms, who 
stood nimbly aside to let it pass, until it rested, but 
impatiently rested, by the opening of the pavilion, 
near which two stout chargers were feeding on wheat 
of the finest which was scattered thickly for their 
sustenance and comfort. 

Then two leaders came forth shoulder to shoulder 
and hand to hand from that fair pavilion, and Ivan 
saw that they were his two elder brothers. 

" Where are you going, Ivan, son of the Great 
White Tsar ? ' they asked, and the young man 
answered, " I grew weary at home and thought of 
going to seek my mother, Golden Tress. Send 
these men of yours to their homes and let us go 

The two brothers assented, and in a short space 
of time the great army was disbanded, and the two 
brothers sat across their chargers ready to go forward 


after the ball which was bouncing in great impatience. 
As soon as the three put spurs to their horses it 
rolled on again and went onward and ever onward 
until it came to a cave in a steep mountain. At the 
opening of this cave Ivan slipped down from his 
horse and said to his brothers, ' Take care of my 
horse while I go on up the face of this mountain, 
where perhaps I shall find my mother. Remain 
here and wait for me for the space of just three 
months. If I do not come back within that time 
then you may conclude that it is of no use waiting 
for me any longer." 

The brothers looked up the face of the steep 
mountain and thought in their hearts, " How can 
a man climb that mountain-side ? He will merely 
fall and crack his skull." But they did not give 
utterance to their thoughts. They merely said, 
Well, brother, go, and God be with you. We will 
wait for you here." 

Ivan now stepped forward to the cave, after 
giving his charger an affectionate pat upon its glossy 
neck, and saw that it was closed with a door of iron. 
He raised his hand and struck a hearty blow upon the 
door, which opened, and he went in. As he stood in 
the middle of the dark earthen floor, iron claws came 
upon his hands and feet of themselves, and, coming 
forth from the place into the light of day, he began 
to climb up the steep face of the mountain climb, 
climb, climb. 

For a whole month he toiled upward, resting at 
night beneath some friendly bush, and at the end of 


the month reached the summit with a sigh of relief. 
" Well," he said, " well, well, glory be to God ! " 

For a little while he rested, and then walked 
onward on the summit of the mountain walked and 
walked, walked and walked, until he came to a castle 
of copper. At the gateway sat terrible wriggling 
serpents fastened with copper chains, crowds of them 
writhing in a mass upon the earth ; and not far 
away was a well, at the mouth of which was a copper 
bucket fastened with a copper chain. Now Ivan 
watched the writhing serpents for a moment, and then, 
obeying an impulse of kindliness, he drew water in 
the copper bucket and gave to them to drink. When 
they had quenched their thirst they lay down in 
quiet, and Ivan was able to enter the castle un- 

At the doorway and just over the threshold the 
young man was met by a Tsaritza who was clothed in 
a cloth of a coppery red, warm and brilliant, and whose 
hair was of a deep auburn tinged with light and 
shining with the early gloss of youthfulness. She 
looked coolly at Ivan as if she thought little of him, 
but her greeting was courteous enough. [ Who are 
you, gallant youth ? ' she asked, and the young 
man replied simply : 

" I am Ivan, youngest son of the Great White 

" How did you come here ? ' asked the Copper 
Tsaritza, " with your own will or against your 
will ? " 

" With my own will," said Ivan. " I am in 


search of my mother. For, while she walked in the 
green palace garden, Whirlwind the Whistler came 
with a shriek and bore her away to an unknown land. 
Can you tell me where I may find her ? ' 

' No, I cannot," was the reply, " but far away 
from here lives my second sister the Silver Tsaritza 
perhaps she will be able to tell you where you may 
find Golden Tress. But I pray you, good youth, 
when you have killed Whirlwind the Whistler, do 
not forget me, poor unfortunate, but rescue me from 
this place and take me out into the free white world. 
Whirlwind the Whistler holds me here as a captive 
and comes to visit me once in three months to 
torment me with his doleful whining." Then she 
gave the good youth a copper ball and a copper ring 
as a token. " This ball," she said, " will lead you to 
my second sister, and within this ring lies the whole 
of the Kingdom of Copper." 

Then Ivan set the copper ball rolling and followed 
it until he came to a castle all of silver and finer than 
the first. At the gateway were . terrible writhing 
serpents fastened with silver chains, and near them 
was a well with a silver bucket. Remembering the 
previous reward for his impulse of kindliness, Ivan 
drew water and gave it to the serpents to drink. 
When they had quenched their thirst they lay down 
in quiet, and Ivan was able to enter the castle un- 

At the doorway, and just over the threshold, he 
was met by a Tsaritza, who was clothed in cloth of 
silver and whose hair was of fine white silver, which 


yet did not take away from the beauty of her youth- 
fulness. At first she did not see Ivan, and she spoke 
to herself. ' It will soon be three years," she said, 
" since Whirlwind the Whistler first imprisoned me 
in this silver castle, and during that time I have not 
seen or spoken with a dweller in Holy Russia. But 
by my lost Kingdom I see a Russian now and a 
goodly one/' Then she bent her beautiful eyes 
upon Ivan and said in a voice like a silver bell, 
Who are you, good youth ? ' 

' I am Ivan, youngest son of the Great White 
Tsar," was the simple answer. 

" How did you come here ? ' asked the Silver 
Tsaritza, ' with your own will or against your 
will ? " 

" With my own will," said Ivan. ' I am in 
search of my mother. For, while she walked in the 
green palace garden, Whirlwind the Whistler came 
with a shriek and bore her away to an unknown 
land. Can you tell me where I may find her ? ' 

' No, I cannot," was the reply, but not far 
away from here lives my eldest sister the Golden 
Tsaritza, Elena the Lovely perhaps she will be able 
to tell you where you may find Golden Tress. But 
I pray you, good youth, when you have killed Whirl- 
wind the Whistler, do not forget me, poor unfortunate, 
but rescue me from this place and take me out into 
the free white world. Whirlwind the Whistler holds 
me here as a captive, and comes once in two months 
to torment me with his hideous voice." Then she 
gave the good youth a silver ball and a silver ring as 


a token and said to him, " Within this little circle 
lies the whole of the Kingdom of Silver." 

Once more Ivan set the ball rolling, and wherever 
it went, there he followed it, and he came at last 
across many leagues of open country to a castle of 
gold. At the gateway sat terrible wriggling serpents 
fastened with golden chains, crowds of them writhing 
in a mass upon the earth ; and not far away was a 
well at the mouth of which was a golden bucket 
fastened with a golden chain. Again Ivan watched 
the writhing serpents for a moment and then drew 
water in the golden bucket and gave to them to drink. 
When they had quenched their thirst they lay 
down in quiet, and Ivan was able to enter the castle 

At the doorway, and just over the threshold, 
he was met by a Tsaritza, who was clothed in cloth 
of gold and whose hair was of fine red gold glowing 
with the fire of youthfulness. At once she saw 
Ivan and said to him : 

" Who are you, good youth ? ' 

" I am Ivan, youngest son of the Great White 
Tsar," was the simple answer. 

" How did you come here ? ' ' asked the Golden 
Tsaritza, " with your own will, or against your will ? ' 

" With my own will," said Ivan. ' I am in 
search of my mother. For, while she walked in the 
green palace garden, Whirlwind the Whistler came 
with a shriek and bore her away to an unknown 
land. Can you tell me where I may find her ? ' 

" I can indeed tell you," said the Golden Tsaritza. 


1 She lives not far from here. Whirlwind the 
Whistler flies to her once a week and to me once a 
month, and he wearies both of us with his shrieks 
and his moans. Here is a golden ball for you. 
Throw it before you and follow it. It will lead you 
to your mother." Then she gave the good youth a 
golden ring as a token and said to him : " Within 
this little circle lies the whole of the Kingdom of 
Gold. I pray you, good youth, when you have 
conquered Whirlwind the Whistler, do not forget 
me, poor unfortunate, but rescue me from this place 
and take me out into the free white world." 

" I will take you," promised Ivan. Then he 
rolled the golden ball before him and wherever it 
went, there he followed it, until he came at last to 
such a palace as he could scarcely bear to look upon, 
it blazed so brightly with diamonds and precious 
stones. At the gateway six-headed serpents were 
hissing, but when Ivan had given them water from a 
well with a diamond bucket, fastened with a chain of 
fine seed pearls, they sank down in quiet and allowed 
him to pass into the castle. He walked quickly 
through one lofty chamber after another and in the 
last chamber he found his mother. 

She was sitting on a great throne of a single 
emerald clad in the festal robes of a Tsaritza, and 
crowned with a dazzling crown, beneath which her 
golden tresses flowed downward over the emerald 
steps. Raising her sad clear eyes, she looked at 
the stranger, and as she looked the mist of memory 
cleared, a smile played about her beautiful ruddy 


lips, and she said eagerly, holding her hands forward, 
1 Ah, is it you, my dear, dear son ? How have you 
found out the place of my concealment ? ' 

" That is so and so and by the way and matter- 
less," said Ivan. " Suffice it to say that I have come 
to fetch you home." 

' But, my dear, dear son," said Golden Tress, 
" that will be indeed a hard matter for you. In 
these mountains the king of all is mighty Whirlwind, 
whom all the spirits of the air obey. It was he who 
bore me away, and it is against him that you must 
fight. Come quickly to the cellar." 

Golden Tress stepped with the step of youthful- 
ness down from the emerald throne, and taking her 
son by the hand led him down a dark stairway into 
the cellar beneath the palace. 

Now in the cellar there were two tubs of water, 
one on the right hand and the other on the left. 
Golden Tress led Ivan forward and said to him, 
' Drink from the tub on your right hand." Ivan 
drank and drank deeply while his beautiful mother 
watched him closely, and when he was finished she 
asked, " Well, what strength is in thee ? ' "I am 
so strong," said the youth, " that I could turn over 
the whole castle with one hand." 

' Drink again," said Golden Tress, very quietly. 
Ivan drank again and drank deeply. 

What strength is in thee now ? ' asked his 

" I am so strong," said he, " that, if I wished, I 
could turn the whole world over." 


That is very great strength," said Golden 
Tress. ' Now move these tubs of water so as to 
make them change positions. Place the right-hand 
tub on the left and the left-hand tub on the right." 
Ivan did so with perfect ease. 

" Now," said Golden Tress, " let me tell you 
why I asked you to do this. In one of these tubs is 
water of strength, but in the other, water of weakness. 
Whirlwind always drinks the water of strength, and 
puts it on the right side, so we must mislead him or 
you will never be able to overcome him." Thereupon 
they made their way up the winding stairway to the 
apartment of Golden Tress, in which stood the 
shining throne made from a single emerald. 

Golden Tress sat down upon this throne and 
composed herself, as if she were expecting a visitor. 
" In a short time," she said, Whirlwind will fly 
home. Come and hide beneath my purple robe so 
that he may not be able to see you, and when he 
enters and runs to try to embrace me reach out 
your hand, which is now a hand of heroic strength, 
and seize his club. He will rise high and ever 
higher, but do not therefore release your hold upon 
his club. He will fly out of the window in the roof, 
and will carry you over seas and over precipices, but 
do not in dizziness release your hold upon his club. 
After a while Whirlwind will grow weak and will 
return to this palace and go down to the cellar, but do 
not release your hold upon his club. He will drink 
of the water in the tub on the right hand, but see that 
you drink meanwhile of the water in the other tub. 


" When he has drunk well, he will grow weak, and 
then you must take his sharp sword from his girdle 
and hew off his head with it. As soon as his head 
falls to the ground you will hear voices behind you 
crying, ' Strike again, strike again.' But these will 
be the voices of tempters, and your answer to them 
must be, ' A hero's hand strikes once to kill, but never 
once to maim.' 

Ivan had scarcely disposed himself under the 
flowing purple robe which swept down upon the 
green and translucent base of the throne of Golden 
Tress, when suddenly the room grew dark and every- 
thing within it trembled and creaked. Whirlwind 
flew to his castle, and no one saw his form until 
he struck the courtyard stones. Then he became a 
goodly young man with a changeful restless face, 
and strode quickly into the castle carrying his club 
with a flourish, until he came before the emerald 

" Tfu, Tfu, Tfu," he said, sniffing disgustedly. 
" There is an odour of Russia here. Have you had 
visitors ? ' 

" I cannot tell why you should think so," said 
Golden Tress. Then Whirlwind came forward and 
held out his arms to embrace the mother of Ivan, 
but with a quick movement the heroic youth stretched 
out his hand and seized his club. " I'll eat you," 
cried Whirlwind in a passion of anger, and Ivan 
replied, " Well, either you will or you won't." 

With a piercing shriek Whirlwind turned and 
mounted quickly upward. He passed with a howl 



through the open window in the roof, and then his 
form was changed, but what it was now no one knew 
or was able to describe, for as often as any one opened 
eyes to look at him he filled them with dust and 
water ; if any one sniffed him he made them sneeze ; 
if any one tried to lay hands upon him he buffeted 
them in the chest and turned them about like weather 
vanes, all the while crying out, * What is my shape ? ' 
Only pigs could see him and knew of what shape he 
was and they had no powers of description. 

It was well for Ivan that in this furious flight he 
kept a firm hold on Whirlwind's club, for as he 
rushed on over the world he kept shrieking, " I will 
smash you ! I will lay you low ! I will drown you ! ' 
But as his club was firmly held he was powerless to 
give a knock-down blow, and presently, wearied out 
with his own fury, he grew weak and began to sink. 
Then he turned homeward, and alighted gently and 
wearily upon the stones of the courtyard, where he 
became a young man with a restless peevish face, 
listlessly bearing his club, which would have trailed 
upon the ground if the heroic hand of Ivan had not 
upheld it. He made what speed he could to the 
cellar, and at once took a deep draught of the water of 
weakness, while Ivan, dropping the club, ran to the 
water of strength, of which he drank long and con- 
tentedly, and so became the first mighty hero in the 
whole white world. 

Seeing that Whirlwind had now become weak to 
extremity he took his sharp sword from his girdle 
and cut off his head with it. Then from behind him 


he heard voices crying, ' Strike again, strike again, 
or he will come to life." " No/' cried Ivan in a 
heroic voice which in spite of himself seemed to 
echo throughout the world. ' A hero's hand strikes 
once to kill, but never once to maim" Then without 
loss of time he made a fire, burned the body of 
Whirlwind as well as the head, and scattered his 
ashes from the ramparts of the castle to North, South, 
East, and West. 

Then Golden Tress was glad and embraced her 
son. " Now let us eat," she said, ' and then go 
home together. It is very wearisome here for of 
what use is a throne of a single emerald if there are 
no people ? What are fine couches and sideboards 
and flagons and furniture if there is no love ? ' 

" Are there not even servants to wait upon 
you ? " asked Ivan. " How are you served ? ' 

" You will see in a moment," was the reply. 
" Think of dinner." So Ivan thought of the nicest 
dinner he could imagine thick soup, white fish 
with pink sharp sauce, meat, potatoes and spinach 
with rich brown gravy, iced pudding and apples 
and nuts for dessert and before he could have 
written out the list all these things were upon the 
sideboard where they kept hot until they were 
needed, all of course except the pudding which stayed 
outside upon the window-sill to keep cool. 

But with all this there was no sound, not even the 
cheerful clatter of plates or the chink of a jug upon a 
tumbler, for the plates came floating singly through 
the air and settled down quietly before the diners, 


while the wine rose from the bottom of the glasses 
as you have seen it do at the conjuror's. Ivan and 
his mother ate in silence, and the young man was 
surprised to find the meal somewhat disappointing. 
His lovely mother watched him closely with a wise 
smile upon her face. When we get home," she 
promised herself, * he shall have hot cakes fresh 
from the oven with plenty of butter and / shall make 
them myself." Then she laughed inwardly and 
sniffed gently through her delicate nostrils as if she 
smelt the kitchen smell of newly made bread and 
cakes, and that is better even than a throne of a 
single emerald or a couch with a cover of sable 
skins lined with softest silk from Samarcand. 

When mother and son had rested for a while 
and talked of many things, Golden Tress enquiring 
particularly how the stoves were drawing in the 
palace of the Great White Tsar, the young man said, 
" Mother, let us go home now, for it is time, and 
besides, under the mountains my brothers are waiting 
for me. And on the way I must rescue three 
Tsaritzas who are living in the castles of Whirlwind 
the Whistler." 

In a short time mother and son were ready for 
the journey, and though the castle was full of untold 
treasure they carried away with them not even a 
diamond of the size of a pin point. But they carried 
as many linen sheets as they could bear, not for 
vanity of housewifery but for a useful purpose. 
After a long journey they came to the Golden 
Tsaritza, Elena the Beautiful, and led her forth, 


asking her to carry with her as many linen sheets as 
she could comfortably bear. In a similar manner 
they led forth the Silver Tsaritza and the Copper 
Tsaritza, and these also brought linen sheets for the 
device which Ivan had designed. 

When they came to the top of the precipice they 
tore the sheets into broad strips, knotted them 
together, and made a long linen rope of them ; and 
by means of this stout rope, one end of which they 
fastened to the trunk of a lofty pine which had seen 
the dawn of history, they let themselves down to 
the plain below, first the Copper Tsaritza, then the 
Silver Tsaritza, then the Golden Tsaritza, Elena the 
Beautiful, and last of all Golden Tress, the Tsaritza 
of the Great White Tsar. 

Now the two elder brothers of Ivan were standing 
below, waiting and watching, and when they saw the 
lovely ladies step daintily one after the other upon 
the earth they said to each other : 

' Let us leave Ivan up there and let us take the 
three lovely maidens and our mother to our father, 
and tell him that we rescued them from Whirlwind 
the Whistler." 

' Right and just," said Peter quickly, " I will 
take the Golden Tsaritza, Elena the Beautiful, for 
myself, and you, Vasily, take the Silver Tsaritza for 
yourself, and we will give the Copper Tsaritza to 
some general." 

Meanwhile Golden Tress was looking steadily up 
the face of the precipice, waiting impatiently for 
Ivan to come down by the ladder of linen. But the 


two brothers ran forward, seized the linen, pulled it 
and tore it away. And when Ivan heard it snap near 
the trunk of the great pine, he sat down and in spite 
of his strength and manliness wept so sorely, and for 
such a long time, that his tears made a cascade down 
the face of the precipice, where the ladder of linen had 
wavered in the breeze. 

Then he arose somewhat refreshed and relieved, 
and turning back walked aimlessly through the Copper 
Kingdom, the Silver Kingdom, and the Golden 
Kingdom, but he met no living person. Then he 
came to the Diamond Kingdom, but even here he 
met no living person. He was now weary almost 
to death, and in the midst of wealth untold yearned 
for the sound of a human voice. In the Diamond 
Palace, from which he had rescued his mother, he 
wandered disconsolate not knowing what to do when, 
all at once, he saw a whistle lying on the window 
ledge. He took it up, and, being a good musician, 
began to play a tune, but as soon as he had sounded 
only one note Lame and Crooked stood before him, 
who seemed to be bowing all the time. 
What is your pleasure ? " he asked. 

" Get a bed ready," said Ivan, and as soon as the 
words were spoken the bed stood near him with the 
pillows smoothed and the quilt turned down a little, 
so as to show the sheets of the finest linen. Ivan 
crept into the bed, in which he found a warming pan, 
settled down cosily and was soon in a deep sleep. 
After a time, the exact length of which does not 
matter, he awoke refreshed and whistled again. 


Before he could say ELENA, Lame and Crooked stood 
before him. 

What is your pleasure ? " he asked. 
Can everything be done, then ? " asked Ivan. 
Everything is possible," was the reply. " Who- 
ever blows that whistle has everything done for him. 
As we served Whirlwind the Whistler before, so now 
we are glad to serve the man who conquered him 
by bracing himself with draughts of the water which 
comes from the stinging East. It is only necessary 
to keep the whistle by you at all times." 

Well, then," said Ivan, " let me be in my own 
city this very moment." 

He had no sooner spoken than he found himself 

in his own city, and standing in the middle of the 

market square. As he stood looking around him a 

jolly old shoemaker came up and Ivan said to him, 

Where are you going, my good man ? ' 

' I am going to sell my shoes," was the reply, 
* for I am a shoemaker." 

Take me into your employment," said the son 
of the Great White Tsar. 

' But do you know how to make shoes ? ' was 
the cautious enquiry. 

' Oh yes," said Ivan, with such confidence that 
the man could do nothing but believe him. 

' I have the means of doing everything not only 
making shoes but clothes as well." 

' Come along, then," said the jolly shoemaker, 
and they went to his house. As soon as they had 
entered, the man took Ivan to the workshop and 


pointing to a seat near a bench he said : "Sit down 
there and get to work. I will go out to sell my 
wares, and when I return to-morrow I shall be able 
to judge exactly of your skill." 

As soon as the man was gone Ivan took out his 
whistle and summoned Lame and Crooked. 

What is your pleasure ? " asked he. 

To have shoes ready by to-morrow." 
Lame and Crooked smiled a smile which seemed 
to wander round the room. " That is not work," 
he said, " but recreation." 

* Here is the leather," said Ivan, and Lame and 
Crooked looked at it with a curving upper lip. 
That is poor stuff," he said, " and the proper place 
for it is out of the window." Then he jumped out 
very nimbly after it and Ivan saw him no more ; 
but when the young man awoke next morning he 
saw on the table beside his bed several pairs of shoes 
of the very best. He had scarcely dressed himself 
when the jolly old shoemaker came into his room 
and said, ' Well, young man, are the shoes ready ? ' 

They are ready for sale," said Ivan quietly, 
pointing to the shoes on the table beside his bed. 
The shoemaker inspected them very closely, and 
his eyes opened wide in wonder. " Why, young man," 
he said, with a jolly smile, " you are not a shoemaker 
but a magician. I must go at once to the market 
and turn these fine shoes into good red gold." 

Off he went to the market, and while he waited 
for customers to arrive he heard all the gossip of the 
city, which was greatly moved to curiosity over three 


forthcoming weddings at the palace of the Great 
White Tsar. He heard that Prince Peter was to 
marry the Golden Tsaritza, Elena the Beautiful, 
that Prince Vasily was to marry the Silver Tsaritza, 
and that the Copper Tsaritza was to marry a general. 
Dresses were being made for the wedding, said 
the good dames of the market-place, such as had 
never yet been designed or embroidered within the 
memory of the oldest in Holy Russia. Then came 
a royal messenger seeking shoes for Elena the 
Beautiful, and after searching the whole market he 
came to the stall of the jolly old shoemaker and easily 
concluded that his wares were finer and more 
delicate than any others ; so he told the man to 
pack up his entire stock and come with him to the 
apartments of the Golden Tsaritza, Elena the Beauti- 
ful, in the palace of the Great White Tsar. 

The Golden Tsaritza was seated among her 
maidens, who were so busy and excited and trembling 
that they sewed many of the lovely garments quite 
wrong ; and as the shoemaker entered the room the 
Lady-of-Honour, who bore the high title of Golden 
Scissors, was scolding a pretty young dressmaker for 
putting the right sleeve in the place of the left. As 
for Elena the Beautiful herself, she sat looking 
straight before her with the expression on her face 
of a person who is obliged to do one thing but would 
rather do something else. 

When she saw the shoes spread out on a table 
before her she looked at them in a listless manner ; 
then, all at once, her beautiful eyes moistened and 


brightened, and she said to the shoemaker who stood 
near with his cap of rough fur in his hand, " What 
is the meaning of this ? They make shoes of this 
pattern only in the mountains." At once an idea 
for gaining time came into her mind, and turning to 
the somewhat bewildered shoemaker, whose jolly 
face was clouded and anxious owing to his good 
fortune, she said to him in a voice which sounded 
hard and cold like the ring of steel upon an anvil, 
' Make me, without measure, another pair of shoes 
cunningly sewn, set with precious stones and glittering 
with diamonds. They must be ready for to-morrow, 
otherwise my servants will hale you to the gallows." 

The shoemaker was then taken to the Tsar's 
treasury, where he chose the precious stones required, 
and was given money to buy leather of the richest 
and softest kind that could be obtained. He had 
received the most exalted order he had ever been 
honoured with, and might have put upon his sign- 
board, "Shoemaker by Royal Appointment to the 
Golden Tsaritza," but still he was far from happy 
in fact he was utterly miserable. ' By Svyatogor, 
Ilya, and Vladimir and all the heroes," he said, " but 
greatness means great worry. Whatever shall I do ? 
How can I make shoes by to-morrow when I am not 
allowed to measure the exalted foot of the beautiful 
Tsaritza ? I shall make nothing by to-morrow but 
an end to my life, for it is very clear that I shall make 
acquaintance with the gallows say about ten o'clock. 
However, seeing that it cannot be helped, let me have 
a last jollification with my companions." 


Off he went to the inn where he had more friends 
than was good for him, and when they saw his face 
so gloomy which was usually so jolly and generous 
they eagerly asked him the cause of his trouble. 

' Oh, my dear friends," he said, " I have been 
honoured with a Court order and as a consequence 
they are going to hang me to-morrow, and only 
the lucky man who succeeds to my business will 
reap the benefit of being able to call himself 
' Shoemaker by Royal Appointment to the Golden 

Why so ? " asked his companions, who were so 
thirsty that they thought the shoemaker might have 
made a much shorter speech. Then the man told 
his trouble as shortly as possible, concluding with the 
words, What think you, friends, of an order like 
that ? I may as well enjoy myself with you for the 
last time, for they will surely come for me to-morrow 
morning say about ten o'clock." 

So they drank and drank and sang and joked and 
danced and then drank again, by which time the 
shoemaker was by no means steady upon his legs. 
Well," he said, as the town clock struck twelve, 
" I will take home a keg of spirits and lie down to 
sleep, and to-morrow when they come to take me to 
the gallows I will drink a gallon and a half at one 
draught, and if they hang me drunk I may be able to 
look and feel jolly until the last." 

Then he staggered home with the keg under his 
arm. He had scarcely passed the threshold when he 
saw Ivan and began at once to upbraid him. " You 


abandoned rascal," he cried, * see what your fine 
shoes have done for me." Then he told him as 
much of the story as he could remember, and 
staggered off to bed saying, " When they come for 
me in the morning, wake me up." 

As soon as all was quiet Ivan took out his whistle 
and blew, whereupon Lame and Crooked appeared 
as before. 

What is your pleasure ? ' he asked, and the 
young Prince told him what was required. 

We obey ! " said Lame and Crooked, who did 
not even ask for the precious stones from the Tsar's 
treasury which the shoemaker had used to wipe out 
his score at the inn. 

Ivan lay down to sleep, and when he awoke next 
morning he thought that the sun had risen two 
hours too soon for his room was filled with fiery 
golden light. But it was only the brilliance of the 
precious stones set in the dainty shoes on the table 
by his bedside. He jumped up, dressed himself in 
the light of the shining gems which shone not by 
reflected radiance, but from the depth of their glowing 
hearts. Then he picked up the dainty shoes, kissed 
them lightly, and took them to his master whom he 
roused with a shake. 

It is time to rise," he said in the man's ear. 

What ! ' cried the shoemaker, sitting bolt up- 
right with a tremendous start. ' Have they come 
for me ? Bring me the keg quickly and draw the 
blind to keep out the light, which shines too cheer- 
fully for a poor fellow who is to be hanged about ten 



o'clock. Here is a cup. Pour the spirits in. They 
shall hang me drunk." 

" But the shoes are made," said Ivan quietly, 
looking at the man with amusement almost con- 
quered by disgust. 

" Made ? How made ? Who made them ? 
Where are they ? Can't you draw the blind and 
keep out that silly light ? ' 

Ivan drew the blind but the light was not thereby 
diminished, and now the bewildered shoemaker saw 
that the radiance came from the precious stones in 
the shoes which Ivan held in his hand. 

The man rubbed his eyes in a dazed manner and 
then said, " They are made sure enough and look 
small enough even for Elena the Beautiful. When 
did we make them ? ' 

" They were made in the night," said Ivan 
quietly, " but it is possible that you do not remember. 
Do you really find yourself unable to recall having cut 
and sewed them. Do try to remember think it 
over very hard." 

" Oh, brother," said the bewildered shoemaker, 
" it must have been working over these brilliant 
gems that has dazed my wits. I barely remember, 
but only very barely. But I must make haste to 
carry them to Elena the Beautiful. Thank goodness 
we have been able to execute her exalted order." 

" And that you have been saved from occupying 
a still more exalted position," said Ivan, who being 
a prince had a great sense of humour. 

" Yes, indeed," said the shoemaker as he left the 


house at great speed. Before Ivan could say ELENA, 
which, by the way, he was continually saying to him- 
self, the jolly shoemaker was standing in the apart- 
ment of the Golden Tsaritza where the preparations 
for the wedding seemed to be as busy as ever. 

Elena the Beautiful looked at the shoes, and 
something to which she dared not give a name told 
her heart what had taken place. " Surely," she said 
to herself, very very softly, ' ' the good Spirits made 
these for Ivan." Then aloud she said to the grinning 
shoemaker, " How did you make these ? ' 

" Oh," said the man, " I am able to do every- 

The reply of the Tsaritza came quickly upon this 
boast. " If you can do everything, make me a 
wedding robe embroidered with gold and ornamented 
with diamonds and precious stones, which will fit 
my body as exactly as these shoes fit my feet. Let 
it be ready by to-morrow morning, for, if it is not, 
off goes your head." 

The face of the shoemaker fell, and he went out 
into the street and walked a long, long way thinking 
very hard. " Well, well," he said at last, 'it is of 
no use mourning. To-day will be my last day, 
that is quite certain, and I may as well spend it in 
jollification. For though a shoemaker may by great 
industry make a wonderful pair of shoes, he cannot 
make a wonderful wedding robe for a 'beautiful 
Tsaritza without measurements, to say nothing of 
trying on." Then he went off to the inn, where he 
found his companions, who seemed to live there. 

' '"Oh," said the man. "I am able to do everything" 


Well, what is wrong now ? ' they asked him 
as soon as they saw his gloomy face. 

" Nothing but contradiction," he said. " My 
high-born patron has now made me Court Dress- 
maker and has ordered me to make her a wedding- 
robe embroidered with gold and ornamented with 
diamonds and precious stones, which will fit her 
body as exactly as my shoes fit her feet, and the whole 
contraption is to be ready by to-morrow morning, 
for, if it is not, off goes my head." 

' Ah, brother," said the loafers, "it is clearly 
impossible that you should execute the order, and as 
we suppose you have the stones on your person we 
may as well go and frolic for to-day." 

The face of the shoemaker fell still lower, for in 
his consternation he had forgotten to ask for the jewels 
from the royal treasury. But he had in his pocket 
the large price paid for the shoes, and, as his previous 
score was paid, the inn-keeper allowed the topers to 
have a good supply of spirits. Once more they caroused 
and once more the shoemaker-dressmaker took a keg 
of spirits home with him and told Ivan all his tale, 
concluding with the words, " Wake me in the morning. 
I'm off to bed." In a few minutes he was sound asleep. 

Ivan at once blew the whistle, and Lame and 
Crooked appeared before him. 

" What is your pleasure ? ' 

" Make me a robe which will fit Elena the Beauti- 
ful to perfection. Let it be embroidered with gold 
and ornamented with diamonds and precious stones, 
and deliver it here before dawn." 


We obey," said Lame and Crooked. The 
wedding robe shall be ready." 

Ivan slept and woke before dawn. He knew at 
once that the light in his chamber came from the 
shining gems on the bodice of the beautiful robe 
which lay across a chair by his bedside. He jumped 
up, dressed himself quickly, and taking up the dress 
kissed the corsage where the heart of Elena would 
beat, and carried the wonderful garment to the 
chamber of his snoring master. 

The light from the gems roused the man, who 
groaned, sat up slowly, and rubbed his eyes. " What ! " 
he cried in a trembling voice, " is it broad day already, 
and have they come to cut off my head ? Give me 
that keg of spirits and a can. I will drink three 
gallons at a draught and then I shall be so full of 
courage that I shall not feel the axe." 

" But the robe is ready," said Ivan very quietly. 

" What ? ' roared the Court Shoemaker-Dress- 
maker. " When did we make it ? ' 

" It was made in the night, of course, and it is 
not the first time that a Court Dressmaker has had 
to work until the small hours. Do you not remember 
cutting the cloth ? ' 

" Ah, brother," said the man who was now 
weeping like a crocodile for sheer relief, " it must 
have been the sheen of the gold embroidery that 
dazzled my wits. I barely remember, but only very 
barely. But I must make haste to carry this robe 
to Elena the Beautiful. Thank goodness I have 
been able to rise to the occasion once more." 


Yes, thank goodness," said Ivan, ' ' but it is to 
be hoped that you will not be honoured with any 
more Court appointments." His employer, how- 
ever, did not hear this last remark, for by the time 
that Ivan had finished speaking he was standing in 
the apartment of Elena the Beautiful, where the 
preparations seemed to be as busy as ever. 

The Golden Tsaritza looked at the robe and 
something to which she dared not give a name told 
her heart what had taken place. " Surely," she said 
to herself, " the good Spirits made this robe for 
Ivan." Then aloud she said to the prinking shoe- 
maker, " How did you make this ? ' 

' Oh," said the unlucky man, " I can make 

The reply of the Tsaritza came like a flash of 
lightning. ' See that at to-morrow's dawn," she 
said, ' the Kingdom of Gold be on the sea, seven 
miles from shore, and across the blue waters stretch- 
ing from that Kingdom to our palace let there be a 
bridge of gold with costly crimson velvet laid upon 
it and set at each side with wonderful trees to form an 
avenue full of love-birds singing sweetest songs of 
dawn with varied voices. If this is not done by 
to-morrow morning I will have you cut up into four 

As the Tsaritza spoke, the face of the shoemaker 
took on an expression of wonder worthy of a large 
audience at the most wonderful conjuring entertain- 
ment you can imagine. Then he turned slowly 
and left the apartment of Elena the Beautiful, mutter- 



ing to himself, ' Court Shoemaker, Court Dress- 
maker, and now Court Magician. I may as well 
have another day's frolic, for though a man may rise 
twice in drowning he does not rise thrice and live." 

He walked slowly off to the inn, heavily weighed 
down with greatness and cursing the day when he 
had forsaken his simple life. But he had the price 
of the robe in his pouch and the third carousal was 
as jolly as the others, and he swore to drink six 
gallons of spirits on the following morning. His 
friends gave him a drunken cheer, sang ' He's a 
jolly good fellow," and saw him home with the keg 
under his arm. 

As before Ivan was waiting for him, and as good 
luck would have it, the poor man for all his intoxica- 
tion was able to remember what was required of him ; 
and as for Lame and Crooked he smiled a crooked 
but very intelligent smile when the task was detailed 
to him. " At last," he said, " you give me real 
work to do." 

Ivan went to sleep and woke early thinking that 
he had overslept himself and that it was now broad 
noon, for a bright light as of the sun was shining in 
at his chamber window which, as he knew very well, 
faced due south. He sprang from his bed, and, draw- 
ing aside the blind, saw across the sea the Kingdom 
of Gold in all its splendour lying like a shining 
island seven miles from the shore, and across the 
waters stretching from that Kingdom to the palace 
of the Great White Tsar there was a bridge of gold 
with costly crimson velvet laid upon it, at each side 


of which were set wonderful trees to form an avenue 
full of love-birds singing sweetest songs of dawn 
with varied voices. Ivan dropped the blind, dressed 
himself with particular care in the golden light which 
filled his chamber, went into his master's room and 
roused him from his heavy sleep. 

" Have they come for me ? ' cried the man in 
great terror, " give me the keg and- But Ivan 

said quietly : 

" But the Kingdom of Gold is upon the sea." 

"Ah," said the shoemaker. " How did we do 
that ? " 

" Don't you remember how we fixed it ? said 

" Yes, yes," was the hasty reply. " I dimly 
remember, very, very dimly. Let us go out to see 
if we have finished the work with the care expected 
of our exalted appointments." 

In a few moments they were upon the shore and 
found everything prepared in a manner which seemed 
to be fit even for Elena the Beautiful, but one thing 
did not please the fastidious taste of Ivan. 

" Here, master," he said, " here is a peacock 
feather duster. Go and dust the railing of the path- 
way to the kingdom. And if you meet any persons 
in the avenue give them this letter." 

The man at once went off to do the bidding of 
his journeyman, and was soon busily engaged in 
delicately dusting the golden railing of the bridge. 

Meanwhile Elena the Beautiful arose, and drawing 
the curtains of her chamber which looked towards 


the sea saw the Kingdom of Gold lying like a shining 
island on the bosom of the deep blue waters. Her 
maids dressed her in a simple robe of white lawn, with 
a girdle of gold, and then she went to the Great 
White Tsar, who sat at breakfast with Golden Tress, 
and told him what she had seen across the sea. At 
once the mighty monarch sent out royal messengers and 
these men walked along the bridge until they met the 
shoemaker, who was busily engaged in the task which 
Ivan had set him. When they accosted him he did 
not cease his work, but taking a letter from his pouch 
handed it with his left hand to the men whose duty 
it would have been to hang, behead, and quarter him 
if it had not been for his wonderful assistant who 
could get everything done. 

The men went away and brought the letter to the 
Great White Tsar just as he was beginning on toast 
and marmalade. He propped it up against the 
diamond teapot and read it as he finished his morning 
meal, and as he did so he made such strange exclama- 
tions that Golden Tress thought with concern that a 
crumb of toast must surely have gone down the 
wrong way. 

Then he arose and ordered out the golden State 
coach for himself and Golden Tress, as well as a 
simple waggon of dark wood drawn by a small shaggy 
pony for the Golden Tsaritza, and in this way they 
came to the end of the bridge which led to the King- 
dom of Gold, where stood Ivan with Peter on one 
side of him and Vasily on the other. 

The Tsar frowned when he caught sight of his 


two elder sons, for Ivan's letter had told him all the 
truth, but as he looked Ivan embraced both of them 
as a sign that on this golden morning he could 
forgive any one. 

The State carriage came to a stop, and Ivan ran 
forward to greet his parents, but hearing a low cry 
of gladness from the simple waggon behind he ran 
forward, lifted Elena the Beautiful to the ground, and 
leading her to his mother knelt to receive her blessing. 

You have not paid much attention to the details 
of this story if you cannot imagine what followed ; 
but even the most careful reader cannot measure the 
bliss of the lovers who had known that they loved 
each other since their first meeting without a word 
being spoken; and that is really a greater wonder 
than the magic feats performed by Lame and Crooked, 
when you come to think about it soberly. 

As for Peter, he was married to the Silver Tsaritza, 
while Vasily wedded the Copper Tsaritza, and the 
shoemaker was made a general on the retired list, 
which meant that he had fine uniforms and a grand 
house, but was not expected to do any fighting. He 
was given a coat of arms by Golden Tress which 
bore three spirit kegs, as a reminder that he was to 
be a temperate man for the rest of his life, and for 
all I know, he really was. 





PEACE had no charm for Vasily of Novgorod the 
Great, but where there was fighting to be done there 
he was at his best and happiest. Rest and ease had 
no attraction for him, but where the rover wandered 
there was the place of his journeying. His father, how- 
ever, had lived in peace with the men of Novgorod 
the Great, and had died leaving to his widow and his 
only son a great store of treasure, a wide palace with 
a lofty tower, and a cellar full of green wine without 

When Vasily had reached the age of seven years 
his mother sent him to learn to read and write, for 
she longed to curb his fiery spirit with the rein of 
reflection which learning places upon the violent ; 
and Vasily, being of a determined disposition, applied 
himself to learning with a will so that he succeeded 
better than all the scholars who studied by his side. 
But reading and writing did not curb his fiery spirit, 
nor even church singing in which he also excelled, 
and he could pass from the cathedral and the singing 
of holy songs to noisy brawls in the city streets in 
which he cracked heads as if they were nuts. He 



was so strong and thoughtless that even his friends 
ran down side paths to avoid meeting him, for it was 
said that he had one day torn out a young man's arm 
in the act of shaking hands with him, and had stricken 
another to the ground by clapping him playfully upon 
the back. 

As Vasily grew up his vigorous pranks began to 
terrify the good people of Novgorod, who came to 
his widow mother to beg for protection against her 
son. She was a peaceable, gentle lady, who was 
greatly alarmed at the strength which her son was 
developing, and she upbraided him with tears in her 

* My son," she said, " why do you delight in 
going about the city making cripples ? At your age 
your father had no treasure to speak of, but he had 
a band of brave bodyguards, and was a wise leader 
among men and a judge among the people of 
Novgorod the Great." 

These gentle words displeased Vasily greatly, and 
instead of restraining him moved him to greater 
mischief. " Men shall speak of my might" he 
muttered as he left his mother, " and in after years 
shall boast even in Novgorod of the heroic deeds of 
their own townsman, aye, even if I crack hundreds 
of their own thick skulls for them. They will 
remember me when they have forgotten men of 
wisdom and of safe judgment." Then he proceeded 
to win his reputation. 

He went up to his own room in the top of his 
lofty tower and sat down at the table to write on a 


scroll of parchment, but it was no psalm or cathedral 
hymn which the turbulent scholar wrote. It was an 
invitation to a feast and ran thus : 

" Whosoever wishes to eat savoury viands ready 
to his hand and without cost to himself, as well as 
to drink green wine of priceless value and to wear 
embroidered robes of the best, let him come to the 
court of Vasily at once and instantly." 

He wrote out this invitation many times and 
then gathering up the scrolls went to the open window. 
Here he fitted each of the parchments to a stout 
arrow and shot them into the city, which was about 
two miles away ; and as the men of Novgorod came 
from church they gathered up these strange missives 
in the streets and lanes and broad paven courtyards. 
Many of them wondered, and they came together in 
groups gravely discussing the marvellous matter, until 
a priest came along from the church and read one of 
the scrolls which was attached to the arrow. Then the 
word buzzed round the town, ' : Vasily the Turbulent 
commandeth us to an honourable feast." And the 
men of Novgorod the Great thought that now their 
chance had surely come to pay off the long score 
against the man who troubled the peace of their 
trading city. 

Meanwhile Vasily was making preparation for 
his guests, and he meant to use the occasion to 
select for himself a brave bodyguard. The test 
for admission to this very select and honourable 
company was to be so severe that Vasily would be 
perfectly sure of gaining protectors of the bravest. 


He rolled a great cask of green wine from the vaults 
and set it up in the middle of the banquet-hall, 
saying to himself, Whoever shall lift in one hand 
a cup of this wine and shall drain it at one breath, 
and shall likewise stand upright after a blow from 
my cudgel of red elm, shall make one of my brave 
bodyguard." Then he went to his room in the 
top of the lofty tower and lying down upon his heroic 
bed of smooth planks slept the sleep of Ilya the Old 

The next morning, very early, his widow mother 
paced the passages of her palace and chanced to 
look out upon the broad courtyard. To her sur- 
prise she saw that it was crowded with a great 
company of the men of Novgorod. In trembling 
haste she ascended the tall tower and roused her 
unruly son from his heavy sleep. 

" Do you sleep, Vasily," she said, " and take 
your ease and care nothing for the peril which is 
even now at your gates ? See, a company of angry 
men make your courtyard as black as a raven's 

The young man at once sprang to his nimble 
feet, grasped his great club of red elm in his white 
hands, and went out into the wide courtyard. 

' Ho, there, Vasily the Turbulent," shouted some 
of the foremost of the guests. We have come to 
your banquet and are determined to eat up all your 
stores of food, to drink up your green wine, to wear 
your embroidered robes, and then drag forth your 
golden treasures." 


The tone of the acceptance of the invitation 
could scarcely be described as polite, and it roused 
the hot blood of Vasily the Turbulent. He leapt 
forth into the courtyard, grasped his club of red elm 
with a firm grip and began to brandish it. Wherever 
he swung it forward an open lane appeared among 
the crowd, and when he drew it backward he made 
an alley. Soon the men of Novgorod were lying in 
great heaps in the courtyard, while the rest went back 
to the town ; and Vasily climbed once more to his 
chamber at the top of the tall tower. 

After a while there came a black-browed handmaid 
to the door of the chamber, and calling Vasily outside 
she told him that the New Trader wished to join his 
bodyguard ; and Vasily came down to the hall 
where the young man stood near the great vat of green 
wine. He was a comely youth with black curls upon 
a white brow, and blue eyes which looked ever into the 
distance, as if he sighted new lands afar off and 
cared not for the trodden ways. As soon as he saw 
him standing there proudly erect, Vasily advanced 
swiftly upon him, grasping his great club of red elm, 
and smote him a stunning, staggering blow. But the 
young man was neither stunned nor did he stagger. 
He stood firm under that heavy blow, the black curls 
upon his forehead did not move, and the wine from 
the full cup in his hand was not spilt. 

" Is my strength waning ? ' cried Vasily in 
despair, and then as if to test it he raised the club 
again and brought it down upon a white and burning 
stone which lay at his feet. The hard stone was 


shivered to atoms and Vasily laughed grimly, as he 
turned to the New Trader. 

' Drain off the green wine at a breath," he 
commanded, and the young man did so. ' Hail, 
New Trader ! ' cried Vasily the Turbulent, ' you 
shall be of my bodyguard from this day forward." 

Then there entered the hall two young men of 
the town, one of whom was known as the Lame and 
the other as the Hunchback, and in spite of their 
infirmities these two stood the severe tests of Vasily 
and were admitted to his bodyguard. 

In this strange manner did Vasily the Turbulent 
choose his brave bodyguard of three men only, 
three men and no more. 

" Enter now my palace of white stone," said the 
hero, " and there we will feast on the best that my 
larders can afford ; and while we eat together I will 
tell you how I shall entertain the men of Novgorod." 

The four heroes sat down to the white tables 
and Vasily sat in the great corner. They were waited 
upon by the black-browed maiden, and when the meal 
was nearly over Vasily unfolded his plan for his next 
banquet. His bodyguard laughed gently as they 
heard of his purpose ; and the next day they went 
out into Novgorod to invite the leading men to 
come and partake of the hospitality of Vasily the 
Turbulent. They came in a great crowd and found 
the tables prepared for a banquet, being filled with 
dishes and huge cups, but there was only one waiting- 
maid, the girl of the black brows, to attend upon this 
great company. 


As soon as the guests were seated and Vasily 
had taken his place in the big corner, the black-browed 
maid brought steaming dishes and foaming tankards 
and placed them before her master and his bodyguard, 
but she placed neither food nor drink before the men 
of Novgorod, who were very hungry, for the wind 
was keen and the world was white. Now when the 
citizens saw that they were mocked by Vasily and 
his bodyguard, and even by the black - browed 
servant maid, they were spitefully angry and cursed 
their host and his men, but this only made the four 
jokers laugh the louder ; whereupon the guests 
arose and crowded out into the snow - covered 
courtyard rather more hungry than when they 
came in. 

" We will not forget this vile insult," piped one 
small citizen in a mantle of marten skins with a 
collar of sables ; " why, my neighbour was full of 
spleen because of my invitation to the lord's castle, and 
when the story is known his pity and scorn will be 
much worse to bear than his spleen. But we shall 
repay Vasily in his own bad coin. Let us make such 
a feast as the citizens of Novgorod have never seen 
before, and we will not send Vasily an invitation" 

" That is a good thought," said two stout citizens, 
and they all went home with their heads so high in 
the air that some of them slipped down on the way 
upon some slides that certain wicked boys who 
would assuredly never grow up to be councillors 
had made in the roadway. In a few days the feast 
was prepared and the invitations were issued, but 


there was no bidding for Vasily and his contemptible 

It was impossible that the preparations for the 
banquet should escape the vigilance of Vasily, and 
indeed the merchants agreed that it would be well 
if he did hear of it. ' Otherwise," said one of them, 
who had made a great fortune by buying and selling 
rags and bones, " how can he be humbled, for, look 
you, neighbours, if he does not know of the feast he 
will not miss our invitation." 

" That is so," said the others, " that is indeed so, 
and true, and wise, and intelligent. Our friend must 
be the next Elder of Novgorod the Great." 

So the servant maid of the rag -merchant told 
the servant maid of another trader, who told the 
black-browed maid at the castle, only to find that 
she knew all about it already, for her master had 
told her two days before. 

" Mother," said Vasily that morning, " I shall 
go to the feast of the men of Novgorod." 

" My dear child," said the old lady, " there is 
always room for the guest who is bidden, but none 
for the guest who is unbidden." But her gentle 
counsel placed no restraint upon Vasily who, when 
the time came, summoned his bodyguard and 
walked straight into the banquet-hall, asking no leave 
of the gatekeepers nor yet of the lackeys at the doors. 
He strode forward to the wall-bench in the great 
corner by the stove and sat down there to wait his 
turn to be served. No man present dared withstand 
him, and he glared down the table in such a ferocious 


manner that many of the citizens burnt their tongues 
by forgetting to blow upon their broth. 

* Ah, well," said one of them, as he made a brave 
attack upon a great sirloin of beef, " Vasily may be 
here but he wasn't invited, while we were invited, 
-in fact I invited myself." 

'Ah, yes," piped the small rag - merchant, who 
wore a coat of greater value than any, " we were 
invited but he wasn't." And with this consolation 
they went on with their feasting, Vasily being served 
as nobly as the rest with meat of the richest and wine 
of the greenest. 

As the banquet went on the spirits of the citizens 
arose, and the small rag-merchant began to think 
that he might some day be bold enough to challenge 
even Vasily to mortal combat. As for the turbulent 
lord himself, he stood up when the merriment was 
at its height and issued a mighty challenge. He 
would go, he said, with his brave bodyguard on 
the following day to the bridge over the Volkof 
river, and would hold his own against all the men 
of Novgorod. Then he stalked from the room 
and across the snow -covered streets to his own 

At the doorway he was met by his widow mother, 
who noticed at once that he was aroused to turbulent 
anger. " Did they pass you with the dishes," she 
asked, ' ' or did they jeer at you ? ' Vasily was too 
much moved to reply, but the bodyguard told her 
all the truth. Then the widow mother put her shoes 
upon her bare feet, cast her mantle of fine sables 



over her cold shoulders and went her way down, 
down into the deep vaults below the palace. There 
she heaped up a bowl with rich red gold, another with 
white silver, and a third with fine seed pearls ; and 
having called the black-browed maiden, who came 
from her room with hair unbound and feet all bare, 
the two women crossed the white courtyard and 
passed along the silent streets until they came to 
the hall where the citizens were finishing their 

The widow mother went forward to the great 
corner with the black-browed maid close behind her, 
and holding out the glittering bowls, said to the 
chief citizens : 

" Hail, ye men of Novgorod ! Forgive now the 
fault of Vasily my turbulent son." 

But the citizens were now so filled with the 
courage born of rich food and green wine that they 
thought themselves superior to bribes, and with 
drunken scorn they refused the gifts of the peace- 
loving mother, and said with a great show of spirit : 

" If we shall be able to take Vasily, we will ride 
his good steed, wear his embroidered garments, and 
take, but not as a gift, all his rich red gold, his white 
silver, and his fine seed pearls. We will pardon him 
freely when we shall have cut off his turbulent 

Then the widow mother went home in great 
grief and sadness, scattering as she went upon the 
frozen snow the rich red gold, the white silver, and 
the fine seed pearls, saying to herself as she went, 


" Not these things are dear to me, but the turbulent 
head of my own dear son." 

Now when she came once more to her own house 
she gave Vasily to drink of the cup of forgetfulness, 
led him down into the deepest dungeon, and locked 
him securely within. Then she went out into the 
stables and set his wild shaggy charger free to wander 
over the wide steppe, and taking his great cudgel of 
red elm, his sharp sword, and his coat of mail, she 
hid them where she thought no one would ever be 
able to find them. 

Early the next morning Vasily's brave bodyguard 
took their stand at one end of the bridge over the 
Volkof river, and the men of Novgorod came against 
them in a great crowd. All that day they fought 
without pause for refreshment, and for a second day 
and a night and yet a third day without pause for 
taking breath. In the meantime Vasily slept and 
took his ease, knowing nothing of the straits to which 
his brave bodyguard was reduced. But as the black- 
browed maiden went to the stream for fresh water, 
with her buckets fastened on a maple yoke, she saw 
the fight by the bridge. Then she set down the 
buckets, and taking the yoke from her white shoulders 
entered into the fray and cracked the skulls of many 
more citizens than she could count. After that she 
ran quickly home, and coming to the door of Vasily's 
dungeon cried out : 

" Do you sleep, Vasily, and take your ease ? Up 
there upon Volkof bridge your brave bodyguard 
stand as prisoners of the men of Novgorod, their 


feet in blood, their heads broken with whips, and 
their hands bound with their own girdles." 

11 Open this pestilent door," roared Vasily, " and 
I will give you as much treasure as you desire in 
return for the displeasure of your mistress." 

The black-browed maiden needed no bribe to 
urge her to obey. With one stout blow of her maple 
yoke she broke the heavy lock, whereupon she set 
her white shoulder against the door, which creaked 
and then gave way under her young strength. So 
Vasily came out once more into the white world, and 
as he could not find his warlike gear he wrenched the 
iron axle from a cart which stood in the empty stable, 
threw it over his shoulder and said, ' ' I thank you, 
maiden, that you did not let my brave bodyguard 
perish. Hereafter I will repay you, but now I must 
not tarry." 

" Haste, oh haste," said the black-browed maid, 
" and give no thought to reward for me. It is 
enough for me to be the handmaid of a man who 
loves a fight against odds." 

In a short time Vasily came to the Volkof bridge 
and found all as the black-browed maid had told 
him. " Ah, my brave bodyguard," he cried, " you 
have breakfasted well ; now let me dine. It was not 
I, my band of brothers, who betrayed you but my 
own mother." With a mighty forward sweep of the 
iron axle he made a lane through the crowd of 
citizens and with a backward stroke he made an 
alley. Then he loosed the bonds of his brave body- 
guard and said to them, " Go now, my brothers, 


and rest, while I play with these children from 

Thereupon he began to stride about upon the 
bridge, brandishing his axle, and the men of Novgorod 
fell in great heaps about him. At this the leaders 
drew off unobserved and went with the Elder at 
their head to the peace-loving widow mother, begging 
her to calm her wild son before he had completely 
wiped out all the citizens of Novgorod ; but she 
said, " I dare not do that, you men of Novgorod, 
for I did him grievous wrong by confining him in a 
dungeon and sowing distrust of his valour in the 
hearts of his brave bodyguard. But my son has a 
godfather who is known as the Ancient Pilgrim, and 
who dwells in the monastery upon the hill. He is 
a man of discretion for what can a woman do alone 
in such a strait ? Ask him for help against my 
turbulent son." 

So the men of Novgorod with the Elder at their 
head went to the Ancient Pilgrim and told him all 
their trouble, at which he sorrowed greatly ; and he 
made ready at once to leave the peace of his monastery 
and go with them to see what he could do. Now he 
was known as the Ancient Pilgrim, but he was really 
a great Russian hero who was spending some time 
in quiet, but who had known what it was in the earlier 
days to stand up against a host. Hearing that there 
was stern fighting going on, it came into his mind 
that he might possibly need protection, and having 
no armour or helmet at hand he climbed up very 
nimbly for an Ancient Pilgrim into the belfry, loosed 


the great service bell and put it upon his heroic 

This will serve me in good stead," he said, 
* in the place where heads are being broken." Then 
finding the clapper of the bell somewhat in his way, 
he detached it and used it as a staff ; and as he stepped 
across the great drawbridge which led from the 
monastery it bent and groaned beneath his weight. 

He walked straightway to Vasily and looked him 
squarely in the eyes. " My godson," he said in a 
coaxing voice, " curb your heroic turbulence. Spare 
at least a few of these men to carry on the business of 
the town." 

These words added fuel to the fire within the 
breast of Vasily, and he replied : 

" Hail, godfather ! If I gave you no white peace 
egg at Easter yet take this red one from me on St. 
Peter's Day." 

Then he heaved up the great axle and brought it 
down with a resounding clang upon the great service 
bell on the heroic head of the Ancient Pilgrim ; and 
with that single blow the life of the hero of old time 
was ended. His staff now served Vasily for a new 
weapon, and he continued to strike down the men of 
Novgorod in dozens and twenties. The Elder and 
his companions kept carefully upon the outside of 
the throng, and when they saw the fall of the Ancient 
Pilgrim they went again to the widow mother and 
asked her to make intercession for them with her 
turbulent son. 

So she dressed herself in a robe of black, threw a 


cloak of fine sables about her shoulders, set a helmet 
from her husband's armoury upon her aged head, 
and went to plead with her son. She did not, how- 
ever, as the Ancient Pilgrim had done, walk straight 
up to Vasily and look him squarely in the eyes ; 
she crept up behind him and laid her trembling hands 
upon his mighty shoulders, entreating him to spare 
the men of Novgorod in his wild anger. And at the 
sound of her gentle voice Vasily dropped his arms, the 
bell clapper fell from his hands upon the lap of 
moist Mother Earth, and he said in a gentle voice : 

' Lady mother, you are a cunning old woman 
and a wise one too. Well you knew how to break 
my power by coming at me from behind, for if you 
had approached me from before I should not have 
spared even you in my anger, so blinded was I with 
fury against these traders of Novgorod." 

The Elder and the councillors now took heart, 
and having conceived a tremendous respect for 
Vasily came forward and prayed that he would be 
their honoured guest at a banquet, where he should sit 
in the great corner and eat and drink of the best. 
Vasily consented to go with them, but he felt ill at 
ease at the banquet, for he was the only fighting man 
there and had no conversation for traders. So he 
slipped away from the feast as soon as he could, and 
went home to his widow mother and his brave body- 
guard ; and he sat among them by the stove until 
long past midnight, talking of many things which had 
happened and of things which were to come. 

When our wounds are healed," said Vasily, 


" I will build me a red ship with delicate sails of 
white linen and launch it upon the bosom of Ilmen 
Lake ; and with my brave bodyguard I will go to 
pray in Jerusalem city, to worship at the holy of 
holies, to visit the grave of the Risen Christ, and to 
bathe in the Jordan river." 

In a short time the red ship was built and sailed 
proudly upon the bosom of Ilmen Lake. Vasily 
walked the decks while his brave bodyguard managed 
the sailing, and as the sun shone on the sails of white 
linen the heart of the hero filled with pride. 

" Set the sails towards the town of Novgorod," 
he cried, and in a short space of time they caught 
the shore, threw out gangways to the bank, and 
having left a watch behind on the ship came into the 
town and thence to the palace of Vasily. The hero 
sought out his widow mother and gently folded his 
strong arms about her trembling form. 

' Lady mother," he said in persuasive tones, 

' give me your sacred blessing, for with my brave 

bodyguard I will go to pray in Jerusalem city, to 

worship at the holy of holies, to visit the grave of the 

Risen Christ, and to bathe in the Jordan river." 

Ah, my son," his mother made answer, " if you 
go with a good purpose I will give you my good 
blessing, but if you go to rob I will not give it. If 
that is your purpose may moist Mother Earth no 
longer bear you." 

That is to be discovered and found out," said 
Vasily, and he persuaded his mother so that she 
gave him freely from the armoury great stores of 

' The black-browed m;iid stood upon the bank as the red ship 
sailed away from Novoorod ' 


weapons, and from the kitchen and larder as much 
bread and other food as the black-browed maid had 
prepared in a month of Holy Days. Then she said 
good-bye with tears, and the black-browed maid stood 
upon the bank as the red ship with sails of fair white 
linen sailed away from Novgorod and ran out like 
a full-breasted water-bird upon the bosom of Lake 

For a long time the black-browed maid stood 
shading her eyes with her hand while her white 
shoulders heaved. Then when the ship could no 
more be seen, she turned and went back to the kitchen, 
where she wrapped the widow mother in her cloak 
of sables ; for though the sun shone the mother of 
Vasily was cold as with the breath of winter from 
the broad white world. 

For two days the red ship sailed onward, and on 
the second day they met a ship which they spoke in 
a friendly fashion. " Whither away, Vasily ? " asked 
the sailors, who hailed from Novgorod the Great. 

" I am going, my mariners," said Vasily, < upon 
an unwilling path. Young as I am I am blood- 
guilty, and I must save my soul ; so now I go to 
pray in Jerusalem city, to worship at the holy of 
holies, to visit the grave of the Risen Christ, and to 
bathe in the Jordan river. Tell me, good youths, 
where is the straight way to the Sacred City ? ' 

Then they told him that the straight way would 
lead him by a seven weeks* journey, but that the way 
about would take a year and a half to traverse. But 
if he took the straight way he would meet with a 


stout barrier, for the chieftains of the Cossacks, in 
number about three thousand, made their lair upon 
the island of Kuminsk, robbing merchant vessels and 
destroying red ships with sails of fair white linen. 

" I trust in my cudgel of the red elm," said 
Vasily. " Haste now, my bodyguard, and steer my 
red beauty by the straight way." 

So they sailed onward, turning neither to the 
right hand nor to the left, until they came to a lofty 
mountain which sloped down steeply to the water. 
Tired of his confinement Vasily ran in to the shore 
and ascended the steep hill with his brave body- 
guard at his heels. Half- way up the ascent they 
found a human skull and human bones lying in the 
pathway. Vasily cast them aside with spurning foot, 
and from the hollow skull came a human voice. 
" Hey, Vasily the Turbulent, why do you spurn me ? 
There was a time, O youth, when I was such as 
you are, and even yet I know how to defend myself. 
Upon this lofty mountain, in the days that are to 
come, shall lie the skull of Vasily the Turbulent." 

The young man made a gesture of disgust and 
passed on, saying, " Surely a spirit unclean speaks 
from this hollow skull." At the top of the mountain 
he found a huge stone on which was carved the in- 
scription : " He who shall comfort himself at this 
stone and divert himself by leaping along it shall 
break his turbulent head." 

Vasily scoffed at the warning and began to divert 
himself by leaping across the great stone, his brave 
bodyguard following his example. But, somehow, 


they did not feel inclined to leap lengthwise. After 
spending some time in this diversion and stretching 
their cramped limbs thereby, they came down from 
the mountain and embarked once more upon the 
red ship. Then they hoisted the sails of fair white 
linen and sped swiftly over the heaving bosom of the 
Caspian Sea until they came to that great barrier 
feared of merchantmen where the robber Cossacks 
hid in the island of Kuminsk, robbing merchant 
vessels and destroying red ships with sails of fair 
white linen. 

At the landing stood a hundred fierce warriors, 
but neither their height nor their girth nor their 
weapons had any terrors for Vasily. He drew near 
to the shore, his men cast out landing-stages, and he 
crossed over into the midst of the Cossack guard, 
flourishing his cudgel of red elm. 

As soon as the brave hundred saw Vasily coming 
they trembled, turned and fled to their chieftains, 
who did not seem to be greatly surprised at the news 
brought by the young men. 

' Surely," they said quietly, ' it is Vasily the 
Turbulent from Novgorod the Great who comes 
upon us with the flight of the falcon." 

They had no sooner spoken these words than 
the young man stepped boldly among them with his 
club of red elm in his hand. But instead of making 
a lane with a forward stroke and an alley with a 
backward, Vasily bowed courteously before the 
Cossack chiefs and said, " Hail, masters ! Show me 
now the straight road to the holy city of Jerusalem." 


The chieftains bowed in return saying, " Hail, 
Vasily of Novgorod ! We entreat you to eat bread 
and drink green wine with us." 

Then they poured out green wine without price, 
and Vasily, grasping the cup in one hand, emptied 
it at a single draught, though it contained a bucket 
and a half. At this the chieftains wondered greatly 
but said nothing, and when they had broken bread 
together, Vasily went back to the red ship with fair 
white linen sails, taking with him rich gifts from the 
Cossack chieftains a bowl of red gold, another of 
white silver, and a third of fine seed pearls. He 
was also accompanied by a young Cossack chieftain 
who had undertaken to be his guide to the holy city 
of Jerusalem. 

Without loss of time Vasily and his brave body- 
guard hoisted their sails of fair white linen and ran 
out upon the Caspian Sea. After much journeying 
they came to the Jordan river, where they threw out 
strong anchors and landing-stages upon the steep 
banks ; and Vasily with his brave bodyguard 
entered in all peacefulness the holy city of Jerusalem. 
They came to the cathedral church and attended mass, 
where Vasily prayed for his mother, himself, and all 
his family, and as he prayed the thought of Novgorod 
the Great softened his turbulent heart. On the 
next day a service was held for the bold travellers, 
and the priests begged forgiveness for all their guilt 
in the matter of violence and headstrong wilfulness. 
Then Vasily prayed before the holy of holies, bathed 
in the sacred river Jordan, gave gold without stint 


to the priests of the city as well as to the aged people, 
and embarked once more on his red ship with sails 
of fair white linen. 

Now before they put off again the brave body- 
guard went also to bathe in the sacred Jordan river, 
and as they did so an aged woman came down to 

" Why do you bathe," she said, " in Jordan 
river ? None must bathe therein save Vasily only, 
whom you shall lose on your way home. Do you 
not know that your master will be taken from your 
head as you go homewards ? ' 

And the youths answered curtly : 

" Be silent." 

In a short time the sails were hoisted, and they 
put out once more on the broad bosom of the Caspian 
Sea, and came at last to the island of Kuminsk, where 
they sought out the Cossack chieftains and bowed 
down before them. But Vasily was somehow dis- 
inclined to talk of his travels or of his early days of 
violence and headiness. He gave to the chieftains 
a parchment scroll which he had brought from 
Jerusalem, in which were written many hard com- 
mandments that he enjoined the Cossack chiefs to 
follow. When these men invited him to a banquet 
Vasily declined, and taking leave of them very quietly 
for a man of such a turbulent heart, he set out once 
more across the Caspian Sea for Novgorod the Great. 

When they had sailed for two weeks they came to 
the steep mountain, and being weary of confinement 
on the ship they landed to stretch their legs. The 


young man went up the steep face of the mountain 
with springing step and came at last to the great 
stone upon the summit across which they all leapt 
in much merriment of heart. Then Vasily in his 
height of spirits tried to leap lengthwise along the 
stone, but fell in a heap upon it and was taken up 
dead ; and his brave bodyguard buried him at the 
place where the hollow skull had lain. 

Then the sad youths hoisted the fair white sails 
upon the masts of the red ship and came at last to 
the city of Novgorod the Great. They sought out 
the widow mother of Vasily who sat huddled by the 
stove in the kitchen and who gave no sign of surprise 
when the brave bodyguard entered, bowed before 
her, and gave her a letter which Vasily had written 
upon the voyage. She read the scroll without tears, 
surprise, or cries of desolation, and then holding up 
her head in the pride of sacred grief she said : 

Thanks to you, good and noble youths. Go 
now into the treasure-house and take from thence 
whatever your hearts desire/' 

Then the black-browed maiden came forward 
and led them to the vaults, turning her white shoulders 
from them as they chose whatever seemed good to 
them. When they returned to the kitchen they 
found the dry-eyed widow mother preparing clothes 
and boots and food and wine for them that they 
might clothe themselves afresh and feast well before 
they went into the city to speak with the men of 

After supper they sat quietly near the stove and 


the widow mother was the first to break the silence. 
" Yet Sadko came back to Novgorod the Great," 
she said ; " Sadko came back to take his ease in his 
own city." 

" But Sadko was a trader," said the black-browed 
maid with quiet scorn. 

" Tell on," said the brave bodyguard. And the 
maiden said, " It will pass the time till morning if I 
tell you the tale of Merchant Sadko which has been 
told in Novgorod since you went away in your red 
ship with fair white linen sails." So she seated her- 
self at the feet of the widow mother on the red bricks 
of the floor for humility, and told her story to the 
listening youths, the tale of 

Merchant Sadko, the Rich Guest of Novgorod. 

In Novgorod the Great dwelt Sadko the harpist, 
who had no store of treasure except the golden tones 
of his harp of maple- wood. He went about to the 
great feasts of the nobles and made all merry with 
his playing. 

Now for three days Sadko had not been bidden 
to any merry feast, and his heart grew sad within him. 
So he went down to the shore of Lake Ilmen and sat 
down upon a blue stone. And there, to soothe his 
spirit, he began to play upon his harp of maple-wood, 
and played from early morning until far into the 
night. Then a great storm arose ; the waves lashed 
up the shore to the blue stone on which Sadko sat, 
and great terror seized upon the heart of the minstrel 
so that he returned to Novgorod in haste and disquiet. 


The stormy night passed, another day dawned 
fair and peaceful, but still Sadko was not bidden to a 
merry feast. So he went again to the shore of the 
lake, again a storm arose, and again he returned to 
Novgorod in haste and disquiet. 

The stormy night passed, another day dawned 
fair and peaceful, but even yet Sadko was not bidden 
to a merry feast. So he went again to the shore of 
the lake, again a storm arose, but this time the 
heart of Sadko grew stout, and he went on with his 
playing though his fingers trembled sorely. Then 
the Water Tsar arose from the lake and said to Sadko : 
We thank you, Sadko the Musician, for your 
diversion, for the sweet sounds of your harp came 
down to the ears of the worshipful guests at my 
banquet ; and I am at a loss, Sadko, for means of 
granting reward to you. 

" But go back, Sadko, to Novgorod the Great, where 
to-morrow you shall be called to a merry feast, at 
which many merchants of Novgorod shall be present. 
Now when they have eaten well and drunk better, 
they will begin to boast. One shall brag of his 
good horse as if it were another Cloudfall ; another 
of the great deeds of his youth as if Svyatogor were 
puny beside him ; a third of the beauty of his young 
wife as if she were another Golden Tress ; and a 
fourth, a wise man, of the goodness of his aged father 
and the tenderness of his mother. 

" Then boast in your own turn, Sadko, and say : 
* I know something which is known to none of this 
worshipful company. I know that there are in 


Lake Ilmen fishes with golden fins.' Then they 
will argue with you and say that such fishes do not 
exist, but you must wager your head upon the truth 
of your word, in return for their pledge of all their 
shops and their precious wares. 

" Then you shall buy a net of the finest silk, not 
for youthful vanity, but for strength, and come and 
cast it into the waters of Lake Ilmen. You must 
cast the net three times in the lake, and at each cast 
I will place within it a fish with fins of gold. So 
shall you win your wager, even the rich shops of 
Novgorod, and become Sadko the Rich Guest. 
But in wealth forget not your sweet playing, nor the 
golden tones of your harp of maple-wood." 

Then the Water Tsar vanished from Sadko 's 

The harper went back to Novgorod the Great, 
and it all happened as the Water Tsar had spoken 
up to the time when the boasters had said their say. 
Then one of them said to Sadko : 

" Why do you sit there, musician, and utter 
never a single word of boasting ? : 

" What shall I boast of ? " asked Sadko. " I have 
no treasure except the golden tones of my harp of 
maple- wood. But there is one thing I know right 
well ; there are in Ilmen Lake fishes with fins of 

You lie, Sadko," cried the merchants. But 
Sadko said : 

" I will wager my head against all the wealth of 
your shops." 



"It is done," said they, and at once they went 
down to Lake Ilmen, Sadko carrying a net of fine 
silk, not for youthful vanity but for strength ; and 
it all fell out as the Water Tsar had promised. Then 
the merchants gave Sadko the treasures they had 
wagered, and he took to trading. He prospered well, 
for he did not forget his sweet playing nor the 
golden tones of his harp of maple-wood, and so wher- 
ever he went he was welcomed among the merchants 
of distant lands and won great profit thereby. In 
a short time he married a beautiful young wife, and 
built a palace of white stone, wherein all things were 
heavenly. His young wife moved among treasures 
of which even Elena the Beautiful would have been 

After a while Sadko made a merry feast, to which 
he invited a great company, including the brave heroes 
Laka and Thoma. Now when they had eaten well 
and drunk better they began to boast. One bragged 
of his good horse as if it were a second Cloudfall ; 
another of the great deeds of his youth as if Svyatogor 
were puny beside him ; a third of the beauty of his 
young wife as if she were another Golden Tress ; 
and a fourth, a wise man, of the goodness of his aged 
father and the tenderness of his mother. 

Then Sadko, not to be outdone, boasted of his 
wealth, and swore to buy up all the wares of the shops 
of Novgorod, both good and bad, day after day, 
until there should not be any more for sale in all that 
city of busy traders. And upon his oath he named 
a great wager of countless treasure. 


The next day he sent his servants to the markets 
of Novgorod, who bought up all the wares, both good 
and bad. On the second day the markets were full 
again, but Sadko sent his servants, who bought up all 
the wares, both good and bad. On the third day he 
found the markets full of precious merchandise from 
Moscow, and felt a merchant's pride in the enter- 
prise of his city ; and he made a pause while he went 
home, sat down in his own chamber and softly 
played upon his harp of maple-wood, which seemed 
to speak the golden tones of wisdom. 

" If you buy all these goods from Moscow," it 
seemed to whisper, " others will flow into Novgorod 
the Great from far away across the sea ; and even 
Sadko the Rich Guest cannot buy all the treasures of 
the whole white world. Sadko is rich but Novgorod 
the Great is still richer. Yield your wager and 
venture forth upon the merchant path of lake and 
river and broad grey sea where the Water Tsar will 
be your friend." 

Then Sadko yielded his wager, which was an 
enormous sum of gold, and built a great fleet of 
thirty- three red ships with sails of fair white linen. 
The prows of these scarlet vessels were in the like- 
ness of fearful dragons, whose eyes were precious 
jacinths, whose brows were Siberian sables and 
whose ears were the dark-brown skins of Siberian 
foxes. Soon these ships were filled with the rich 
wares of Novgorod, and Sadko sailed away to Lake 
Ladoga and thence into the Neva and through that 
river to the deep-blue sea. At the ports upon the 


shore he sold his wares, making great gain and rilling 
many casks of forty buckets with red gold, white 
silver, and fair seed pearls. Then they sailed away 
with Sadko in the Falcon ship which was ever fore- 
most and the finest in all that scarlet fleet. 

But suddenly the blue sea turned to grey and the 
ships, now almost black in the shadow, halted and 
stood still. The waves rose like mountains, the sails 
flapped, the ships began to rock while men whispered 
of Whirlwind the Whistler and said that surely Ivan 
the son of Golden Tress had not killed him. 

Then Sadko, the Rich Guest, shouted from his 
ship : 

" Ho, there, my brave mariners ! I hear the 
voice of the mighty Water Tsar, to whom we have 
paid no tribute. Cast into the waters a cask of red 
gold." And they did so, but still the dark-red ships 
rocked, the waves beat, the sails tore, and the hearts 
of the mariners longed for Novgorod the Great. 

Again Sadko the Rich Guest shouted from his 
ship : 

" Ho there, my brave mariners ! A cask of red 
gold is but a small gift for the Water Tsar. Cast 
into the waves a cask of fine seed pearls." And they 
did so, but still the dark-red ships rocked, the waves 
beat, the sails tore, and the hearts of the mariners 
longed for Novgorod the Great. 

Once again Sadko the Rich Guest shouted from 
his ship : 

Ho, there, my brave mariners ! It is plain that 
the Water Tsar asks the tribute of a living man. 



Make therefore slips of alder-wood and let each man 
write his name upon his own lot and cast them all 
into the dark-grey sea, and the lots of all who are to 
see their homes once again shall float. But that 
man among us whose lot sinketh shall be cast into 
the sea." Then the command of Sadko was obeyed, 
but Sadko J s lot was a bunch of hop flowers. And 
all the lots swam like ducks, but the bunch of hop 
flowers sank like a stone. 

Yet again Sadko the Rich Guest shouted from 
his ship : " Those lots were not just. Make other 
lots of willow- wood and try again." Then the com- 
mand of Sadko was obeyed, but Sadko 's lot was a 
piece of blue steel from Damascus, wondrously 
wrought and heavy in weight. And all the lots 
swam like wild ducks, but the piece of blue steel sank 
like a stone. 

Then Sadko said, "It is plain that the Water 
Tsar asks for Sadko himself." So he told his 
servants to fetch him his massive inkstand, his swan- 
quill pen, and his paper, and they did so. Whereupon 
Sadko seated himself in his folding chair at his table 
of oak and began to apportion his goods. He gave 
much to God's churches, much for the improvement 
of choir singing, much to the poor, and much to his 
young wife, and the remainder of his goods he divided 
among his faithful mariners. 

Having done this in due order he wept and said 
to those about him : 

" Ho, my brave mariners ! Place an oaken plank 
upon the heaving dark-grey sea upon which I shall 


journey ; and fill a bowl with red gold, another with 
white silver and a third with fine seed pearls and place 
them upon the plank." After that Sadko took in his 
right hand an iron image of a saint of God, and in his 
left hand his harp of maple- wood. He wore a mantle 
of rich sables over all, and he stepped upon the oaken 
plank and was borne away upon the waves while the 
dark-red ships sped on and flew as if they had been 
ravens over the field of the slain. 

Now as his strange raft floated turbulently upon 
the surface of the water, Sadko at first was greatly 
terrified, but after a while he fell into a gentle sleep, 
and when he awoke he was in the crystal kingdom of 
the Water Tsar. He looked about him and saw the 
red sun burning though it gave no heat, and he saw 
also before him a palace of white stone in which sat 
the Water Tsar with a head like a heap of yellow hay. 

" Welcome, Sadko, the Rich Guest of Novgorod," 
he said. " You have long sailed upon the waters, but 
have paid no tribute to the Water Tsar. I have 
sent for you that you may solve this riddle which is 
a matter of dispute between me and my Tsaritza. 
Which is now of greatest worth in Russia, gold or 
silver or damascened steel ? ! 

' Gold and silver are of great worth in Russia," 
said Sadko, " but damascened steel is of great value 
also. For without gold and silver a man may con- 
trive to live, but without the ore of iron no man can 
live at ease." 

" What do you hold in your right hand and in 
your left ? " asked the Water Tsar. 


A r 

The Water Tsar dances 


' In my right hand is a holy image," replied 
Sadko, " and in my left my harp of maple- wood." 

" I am told," said the Water Tsar, whose memory 
must, of course, have been washed quite clean each 
day by living in the sea, " that you are, in spite of 
your trading, a master player upon the harp. Play 
for me upon your harp of maple- wood." 

Sadko at once commenced to finger his harp, and 
forgetting all his trading and golden prosperity- 
perhaps the water washed his memory clean also he 
played such music as the sea fairies with the pink 
conch shells could not surpass. Then he struck up 
a merry dance-tune, and at once the Tsar rose from 
his throne and began to jump about, beating time 
with the skirts of his royal robe and swinging his 
mantle of white fleece round him like an encircling 
cloud, while above all gleamed his hair as yellow as 
a bunch of hay. At the sound a troop of lovely sea 
fairies, clad in transparent garments of the most 
beautiful colours, joined in a choral dance, while 
strange sea creatures squatted and leapt about the 
oozy floor of the ocean sea. 

But the merriment at the bottom of the Water 
Tsar's kingdom made sad havoc at the top. For the 
upper waters of the sea were churned into yeasty 
foam, heaving into great billows, breaking ships 
asunder, drowning many mariners, and swallowing 
up rich stores of merchandise. For three hours did 
Sadko play, and then the quiet-eyed Water Tsaritza 
said to him in a compelling voice : 

" Break thy harp of maple -wood, Sadko the 


Rich Guest, for though the Water Tsar makes merry 
in his palace below, in the upper borders of his 
realm there is trouble enough and to spare." 

All at once Sadko stopped playing, broke his 
harp and snapped its golden strings, and when the 
Water Tsar commanded him to play for two hours 
more, he told him boldly that the instrument was 

" But I have sea-smiths here," said His Watery 
Majesty, " who can mend a broken pearl, so that it 
would be an easy thing for them to restore a harp- 

' All the sea-smiths of your ocean realm," said 
Sadko, " could not revive music that is lost. That 
can only be done in Holy Russia, when the maker of 
the music comes once more to his own home." 

" Talk not of land kingdoms," said the Tsar, 
whirling round Sadko in the hope of regaining the 
step which he had lost, but finding it impossible to 
dance without music. " Stay with me and wed some 
beautiful sea-maiden. Take your choice from the 
maids in the train of my queen." 

Seeing that he was in the power of the Water Tsar, 
Sadko promised to do so, and asked the advice of the 
quiet-eyed Water Tsaritza, who gave it in her own 
compelling voice, so that Sadko felt that it was a 
command. ' Do not choose," she said, ' ' any sea- 
maid from the first three hundred which the Tsar 
will marshal before you, but let them pass by in all 
their beauty. Do not choose from the second three 
hundred, but let them pass in all their loveliness. 


But from the third three hundred choose the Princess 
who shall come last of all, and who is smaller and 
blacker than all the rest. But when you have chosen 
her do not kiss her, for if you do, you shall never 
more dwell in Holy Russia, nor see the fair white 
world and the round and ruddy sun." 

Therefore Sadko allowed the first three hundred 
maidens to pass him by in all their beauty ; and he 
let the second three hundred pass him by in all their 
loveliness ; but from the third three hundred he 
chose the Princess who came last of all, and who was 
smaller and blacker than all the rest. But when he 
chose her he did not kiss her, for he longed once 
more to dwell in Holy Russia, to see the fair white 
world and the round and ruddy sun. 

At the wedding feast the Water Tsar made a 
great banquet, after which Sadko lay down and fell 
into a heavy sleep ; and when he awoke he found 
himself on the steep banks of a river near Novgorod. 
He sat up, rubbing his eyes, and saw far away on the 
Volkof river his fleet of bright-red ships with their 
sails of fair white linen on the decks of which his 
men were standing thoughtful, thinking of Sadko in 
the depths of the deep-blue sea. But when they saw 
their master standing upon the steep bank, they 
rubbed their eyes in astonishment. Then they 
hailed him, and took him on board with great re- 
joicing. He carried with him a broken harp, and 
lo, as he entered his palace and saw his young wife 
again the harp -strings were suddenly restored to 
all their strength and flexibility, and the body of 


maple -wood rang as sound as the great bell of 
St. Sophia. 

Thenceforth Sadko sailed no more upon seas, 
either blue or grey, but lived at home in Novgorod 
the Great, and delighted all with the golden tones of 
his harp of maple-wood. 


The stove was growing cold, the black-browed 
maiden rose to her feet, and stretching herself to 
ease her limbs stooped tenderly to wrap the great 
mantle of sables more closely about the widow mother 
of Vasily the Turbulent, who murmured gently but 
not complainingly, " Yet Sadko came home again." 

We thank you for your tale, maiden," said the 
brave bodyguard of Vasily. Then they went to 
their rest ; and on the next day they sought out the 
men of Novgorod, and the Sea Trader told them of 
new routes for rich merchandise which their turbulent 
lord had opened out for their enrichment ; and they 
equipped the brave bodyguard with more scarlet 
ships to go out again upon those routes and win 
more glory for Novgorod the Great. 

As for Vasily, they made a great image of him, and 
set it up in their market, telling all men how his 
valour had earned for him the praise of all his 

But the black-browed maiden smiled with up- 
turned scarlet lip when she saw it, and shrugged 
her white shoulders as she turned away to wait upon 
the mother of Vasily the Turbulent. 




IN a certain kingdom of Holy Russia there reigned a 
ruler so fierce that he was known as the Terrible 
Tsar, and the way in which he won his title was this. 
One day he frowned such an angry frown at his 
body-servant, who had brought him diamond shoes 
instead of those set with fine seed pearls, that the 
man ran out of the room in great terror ; and he 
told the chambermaid, who told the butler, who told 
the cook, who told the soldiers of the guard, who 
told the generals, who told the people that their 
master was indeed the Terrible Tsar. So this 
ruler became the terror of all the neighbouring 
princes ; and when he heard of his reputation he 
took great care not to lose it for it proved very 
useful to him. 

By-and-by the Terrible Tsar made up his mind to 
marry, and he wrote a proclamation in golden ink on 
a large piece of crimson velvet, and sent a herald into 
every town and village to read the announcement, 
which was to this effect that whoever should find 
for him a bride who was ruddier than the sun, 



fairer than the moon, and whiter than snow should 
be given a reward so great that he would be forced 
to spend most of his time in computing its value. 
This was a prize worth trying for, and before long 
the people of all the cities with their suburbs and 
towns with their villages, as well as the goose-herds, 
swan-herds, cow-herds, and keepers of downy ducks 
on the open steppe, were wagging their heads over 
the matter and counting up enormous numbers upon 
their finger-tips. 

Now not far from the Tsar's palace there was a 
large brewery, and when the workers in this place 
met together to eat their food they began to talk 
of the matter which was exercising the minds of 
the people throughout the kingdom. Well, my 
brothers," said a certain man among them, who 
was known as Nikita Koltoma, " I am quite certain 
of this. No one can find such a bride as the Terrible 
Tsar desires without my help ; and if I promise to 
find her, found she shall be, though whether the 
Tsar enjoys his good fortune when he finds her is 
another matter." 

" You are a fool and a boaster," said the other 
workmen. ' How can one of us do such a great 
deed as this ? Why all the bravest heroes of Holy 
Russia will attempt it, and even they have small 
chance of success. Let us go back to make more 
beer. Why, Nikita, you could not do it in a dream, 
to say nothing of your waking hours." 

" Well, brothers," said Nikita firmly and cheer- 
fully, " say what it may please you to say ; but I 


have faith in myself, and if any man can find the bride 
I can do so." 

" Hush, Nikita," said the others in warning 
voices. " Have you not heard how terrible our 
Tsar really is ? Why if he hears of your boasting he 
will surely put you to death." 

" Not so," said Nikita quite cheerfully, " he will 
not put me to death. He will give me much money, 
and some day, indeed, he may make me his first 

The workmen looked at him in dismay and terror, 
for over the wall they saw the head of one of the 
Tsar's soldiers, and they could tell quite plainly 
from the tilt of his headgear that the man had heard 
all the boastful speeches of Nikita. Before long a 
strong guard came to take the boaster away to the 
Tsar's palace. " That is the last of him," said one 
of the workmen as the poor fellow was marched off. 
And so it was, at least as far as the brewery was 

For the Terrible Tsar received Nikita with great 
delight. " Are you the man," he asked, ' who 
boasted that you could find me a bride ruddier than 
the sun, fairer than the moon, and whiter than 
snow ? ' 

" I am, Your Majesty," said Nikita firmly. 

" That is well," said the Terrible Tsar. ' If you 
can do this, I will give you such and such a reward 
and make you first minister. But if, after boasting, 
you cannot do it, I will cut off your head." 

" I am honoured by Your Majesty's august 


commands," said Nikita ; ' but I beg of you that you 
will first give orders that I should be given a holiday 
for a month." 

The Terrible Tsar consented to this, and ordered 
his steward to give Nikita a paper commanding all 
keepers of inns and eating-houses to place before him 
food and drink of their best without stint and without 
charge. Then Nikita went out, and for three complete 
weeks he enjoyed himself as he had never done before. 
Meanwhile the Terrible Tsar waited patiently, and 
when Nikita presented himself at the palace he 
scarcely knew him he was so well favoured, so vigorous, 
and so cheerful and confident of success. To him 
even the Terrible Tsar seemed to have lost his 

" May it please Your Majesty," said Nikita, " to 
choose for me twelve brave youths exactly the same 
in height, in breadth, in the colour of their hair and 
the pitch of their voice ; and let your workmen 
make thirteen tents of fair white linen embroidered 
with gold." In a very short space of time the youths 
and the tents were ready, and Nikita said to his 
royal employer : 

" Now Great Tsar, prepare yourself, and we will 
go to find a bride ruddier than the sun, fairer than 
the moon, and whiter than snow." 

Without further delay they saddled their good 
steeds and packed the white linen tents on horseback. 
Then after saying a prayer in the cathedral they gave 
the rein to their chargers. So fast they rode that 
it was only a pillar of dust on the open plain and 


they were gone. For three days they travelled on- 
ward, and then they came to a smith's forge. 

" Go ahead now," said Nikita, * and may good 
go with you. I will go into this forge to smoke a 
pipe with the blacksmiths." Then he went in and 
found fifteen smiths making the anvils ring. 

" Good-day to you, brothers," he bellowed, and 
at the sound of his great voice they ceased their 
hammering and returned his greeting with proper 

" Make me a staff of wrought iron," he said, " of 
five hundred pounds in weight." 

" We are willing enough to make such a staff," 
said the master smith, " but who will turn the iron ? 
Five hundred pounds is no light weight even for a 

" Beat away, my merry men," said Nikita, " and 
I will turn the iron." So they beat away and Nikita 
turned the iron ; and when the staff was ready 
Nikita took it out into the open field. There he 
threw it skyward to a height of ninety feet and let it 
fall into his hand. As he grasped it with his heroic 
strength, it bent and broke. Then Nikita went back 
to the forge,, paid the men for their work, threw the 
broken pieces of rod away, and rode off with a pleased 
look upon his face. Before long he caught up again 
with his companions, and they rode onward for three 
days longer, when once more they came to a forge 
in the open field. 

" Go ahead again," said Nikita, " and may 
good go with you. I will go into this forge to smoke 



a pipe with the blacksmiths." Then he went in 
and found twenty-five smiths making the anvils ring. 

' Good-day to you, brothers," he bellowed, and 
at the sound of his great voice they ceased their 
hammering and returned his greeting with proper 

" Make me a staff of wrought iron," he said, " of 
a thousand pounds in weight." 

" We are willing enough," said the master smith, 
" to make such a staff, but who will turn the iron ? ' 

" Beat away, my merry men," said Nikita, " and 
I will turn the iron." So they beat away and Nikita 
turned the iron ; and when the staff was ready, Nikita 
took it out into the open field. There he threw it 
skyward to a height of one hundred and fifty feet 
and let it fall into his hand. As he grasped it with 
his heroic strength, it bent and broke. Then Nikita 
went back to the forge, paid the men for their work, 
threw the broken pieces of the rod away, and rode off 
with a pleased look upon his face. Before long he 
caught up again with his companions, and they rode 
onward for three days longer, whence once more they 
came to a forge in the open field. 

" Go ahead a third time," said Nikita, " and 
may good go with you. I will go into this forge to 
smoke a pipe with the blacksmiths." 

Within the third forge he found fifty blacksmiths 
tormenting an old man whom they had stretched out 
upon a large anvil. Ten of these great fellows were 
holding him by the beard with pincers and the forty 
were pounding him on his body with hammers. 


! Have mercy, have mercy, good brothers," the 
old man was screaming. : Leave some life in me to 
allow me to show how sorry I am." 

' Good-day to you all," roared Nikita above the 

' Good-day to you, brother," replied the black- 
smiths, pausing in their work. 

Why do you use this old man in such a cruel 
manner ? " asked Nikita. 

Because he owes each one of us a rouble," 
was the answer, " and he will not pay. Why should 
he not be beaten ? ' 

' It is a great deal to suffer for fifty roubles," 
said Nikita. " Here is the money. Let the old 
fellow go in peace." 

: Very good, brother," said the blacksmiths. " We 
do not care who pays the money so long as we get 
it somewhere, somehow." Then they let the old 
man free, and as soon as they stood aside from the 
anvil he vanished from their sight. 

Nikita rubbed his eyes and looked round in 
blank amazement. " Why, where is the old man ? ' 
he asked. 

' Oh," replied one of the blacksmiths, : you 
may look for him in vain now. He is a wizard, and 
can wriggle out of anything." 

Nikita laughed, and then ordered the blacksmiths 
to make him a staff of iron weighing two thousand 
pounds. When it was ready he went out into the 
field and threw it upward to a height of three hundred 
feet. The staff fell into his outstretched hand, 


which never shook, and remained there firmly 

" This will do," said Nikita. Thereupon he paid 
the men for their work, and rode off quickly after 
his companions. But as he rode onward he heard 
some one behind him lustily calling out his name, 
and turning in his saddle he saw the old man running 
quickly after him. 

" Thanks, thanks, many thanks and more thanks 
again for your help," said the old man. " For thirty 
years I lay upon that anvil and was tortured by those 
fifty fiends. Now will you accept a present from 
me in return ? Here is a wonderful cap for you. 
When you put it on your head no man will be able 
to see you, for it is a cap of darkness." Nikita 
thanked the old man warmly, took the cap, and once 
more galloped on after his companions, whom he 
overtook after a short space of time. By -and -by 
they came to a castle which was surrounded by a 
stout iron paling through which there was no gateway. 

" Well," said the Terrible Tsar, " what shall we 
do now ? It is very plain, Nikita, that the people of 
this castle do not intend that any one should enter." 

" Why not ? " asked Nikita. " That is surely a 
small difficulty with all due respect to Your Majesty. 
Now, boys, tear down the paling and let us through." 
So the good fellows got down from their horses and 
began to tug and push at the railings with all their 
heroic strength ; but they could not make them budge 
an inch. 

" Oh, brothers," said Nikita. " I find I am a 


deep-sea captain of a crew of river sailors. What I 
wish to have done I must do for myself. No matter ; 
after all it was I myself who promised to find for 
the Terrible Tsar a bride who is ruddier than the 
sun, fairer than the moon, and whiter than snow." 
Nikita leapt from his horse, put his heroic hand to 
the paling and a full length of it lay upon the ground. 
Through the opening thus made the company rode 
boldly forward. On the green lawn before the great 
door of the castle they quietly set up their white 
gold-embroidered tents, ate a good meal, and then, 
lying down, slept soundly. But Nikita did not enter 
one of the tents. He took three old mats, made a 
little shelter for himself, and lay down on the cold 
hard ground ; and Nikita did not sleep, but waited 
watchfully for what might turn out. 

Now when morning dawned, Yelena the Haughty 
Beauty woke with a sigh and looked out through 
the lattice-window of her room which was decked 
with ruddy gold, white silver, and fine seed pearls. 
There she saw upon the lawn the thirteen white tents 
of the Terrible Tsar, and in front of them all a small 
shelter made of old mats, from which a pair of very 
sharp eyes were looking out. 

Whatever can have happened ? ' said Yelena 
to herself. Who are my new guests and whence 
have they come ? Why the strong iron paling which 
was better than a whole army of guards is broken 
and thrown to the ground." Then she put her 
haughty head out of the window and cried in a 
voice of heroic rage : 


' Ho, there, guards and protectors ! To my 
rescue ! Put these intruders to a speedy and cruel 
death while I watch you at your work. Throw their 
carcases over the iron paling and bring their white 
gold-embroidered tents to me." 

Then the hero who lived in the castle as the special 
protector of Yelena the Haughty Beauty, saddled his 
great steed and put on his battle armour, on which 
the morning sun shone brightly, and rode towards 
the unbidden guests, while the Princess watched 
from her lattice-window to see that her orders were 
strictly carried out. 

Nikita sprang from his little shelter and stood 
boldly in the path of the horseman. 
Who goes ? " he asked. 
Who asks ? ' ' was the angry reply. 

Then Nikita sprang forward, and seizing the 
hero by the foot, dragged him from his horse. 
Raising his iron staff he gave him one all-sufficient 
blow and said, " Go now to Yelena the Haughty 
Beauty ; tell her to hide her haughtiness and prepare 
to marry my master the Terrible Tsar without 
further delay." 

Meanwhile the would-be bridegroom and his 
young men slept on. 

The bold hero was glad enough to obey the 
brave wooer, and rode up to the castle, where he 
saluted his mistress with reverence and said : 

These are men whose might cannot be measured, 
O Princess. Their leader is plainly a man of great 
weight, and told me to bid you hide your haughtiness 


and prepare to marry the Terrible Tsar without 
further delay." 

The lady looked down from the window, and as 
she looked her scorn seemed to wither up the hero, 
horse and all. Then she turned haughtily from the 
window, attired herself in her most beautiful garments, 
and went down to the great hall, where she summoned 
a band of generals and leaders. 

" My brave men," she cried in tones of passionate 
anger, " get together a great array and sweep these 
intruders out of my lawn as the serving maids sweep 
the court before the great door." 

Then quickly, very quickly, and with lightning 
speed, the horsemen rode forth from the castle and 
swept down with a sound of rushing water upon the 
tents of the Terrible Tsar. But they drew rein 
when Nikita stood before them waving his mighty 
staff ; and quickly, very quickly, and with lightning 
speed, they fell and lay dead upon the green lawn. 

Meanwhile the would-be bridegroom and his 
young men slept on. 

" Go back," cried Nikita to the first hero, who 
had kept well out of reach of that terrible staff. 
' Go back to Yelena the Haughty Beauty and tell 
her not to resist us further. See how I have dealt 
with your men alone and all by myself ! What 
will it be when the Terrible Tsar and his young men 
awake from sleep ? We shall not leave one stone of 
your castle upon another. You would do well to 
go back and tell the bride to prepare for her 


So the hero went back and told his mistress all 
that had happened. 

What is to be, must be," she said with outward 
graciousness. " I will go to meet this heroic bride- 
groom in a manner fitting to his warlike ways." So 
she summoned her heroic bodyguard, and, surrounded 
by these youths, who carried battle-bows in their 
hands, she walked proudly from the front door of 
the castle towards the tents of white linen standing 
upon her own green lawn. 

Nikita saw them coming, and knew without 
instruction that the kiss of the bride would be sharp 
and stinging. So he put on the Cap of Darkness, 
bent his own bow, shot off a flaming shaft, and knocked 
off the top story of the castle. Yelena the Haughty 
Beauty bowed to her fate, advanced with stately step 
towards the Terrible Tsar, took him by the hand, 
and led him within the banquet-hall, where he and 
his company were feasted on the best. When his 
master had eaten well and drunk just as well, Nikita 
said in his ear, " Does the bride please you, or shall 
we set out to seek a better ? ' 

" No, Nikita," said the Terrible Tsar with a 
smile of satisfaction, " let us not go on any more, for 
the whole white world cannot contain better fortune 
than is granted to us here." 

" Well, then," said Nikita, " haste to your wed- 
ding, but beware of your bride." So the wedding 
was hastened, and when the feast was over the bride 
came to the bridegroom and laid her hand in affec- 
tion upon his shoulder. But if this were affection it 


was heavy affection, for at the weight of her hand the 
Terrible Tsar felt as if he were being pushed down 
bodily into the lap of moist Mother Earth. 

" Is my hand heavy, my lord and master ? 
asked the bride sweetly. 

" It is as heavy as a feather on the bosom of the 
summer lake," was the polite reply. ' But, stay, 
my bride. I have to give an order to my brave 
troops." Then with a great effort he freed himself, 
and went out into the next room where Nikita was 
awaiting him. 

" Ah, Nikita," said the Terrible Tsar in great 
distress, " what shall I do ? The hand of my bride 
is heavier than the staff of Ilya of Murom." 

Then Nikita put on his Cap of Darkness and 
went back into the room with the Terrible Tsar, 
and as often as Yelena laid her hand upon his master 
in affection, he stepped in the way and bore the weight 
of it. So they went on all the time that the Terrible 
Tsar stayed in the castle for the wedding festivity, 
which lasted for a week. But before the week was 
over Yelena the Haughty Beauty knew that her 
people were laughing at her because she had married 
a man whose strength was as nothing but who relied 
always upon Nikita ; and she planned in her heart 
a terrible revenge. 

" We have feasted enough," said the Terrible 
Tsar at the end of the festival week. " It is time for 
us to go homeward and we shall go by water." 

So a glorious ship was prepared, and the bridal 
party went on board. The sails were set, and the 


ship put out from the harbour with a fair wind and 
a bright sun. The Terrible Tsar was very happy 
in his good fortune, but the haughty bride made 
merry to his face and plotted behind his back. 
As for Nikita he fell into a heroic sleep and slept 
for twelve whole days and nights. 

When Yelena saw him sleeping she summoned 
her trusty bodyguard and ordered them to cut off 
his legs to the knee, put him all maimed into a boat, 
and cast it out upon the open sea. They did so ; and 
on the thirteenth day Nikita awoke from his heroic 
sleep to find himself lying footless in an open boat 
far out upon the sea with no ship in sight any- 

Meanwhile the bridal ship sailed on its way with 
a fair wind and a bright sun, and at last it entered 
the harbour of the royal city of the Terrible Tsar. 
Then the cannon gave the sign, and the people ran 
down to the wharves, where the nobles and the chief 
merchants, with the Elder at their head, offered bread 
and salt to their royal master, and greeted him with 
compliments on his marriage with a bride so beautiful 
and so stately. And the Terrible Tsar was so busy 
for a long time in feasting and smiling, giving 
presents and receiving them, that he forgot all about 

But when the feast was over the haughty bride 
took the rule of the kingdom upon herself, and forced 
the Terrible Tsar to go out into the fields to herd the 
pigs ! Then she gave orders that all the relatives of 
Nikita should be brought before her at the royal 


palace. Her soldiers found only one, Timothy, the 
brother of Nikita, and by order of the Terrible 
Tsaritza his eyes were put out and he was driven 
from the town into the green fields. 

The blind man went on with his hands spread 
out before him, onward and ever onward until he 
came to the seashore and found the water beneath 
his feet. Then he halted and stood still, fearing to 
go forward. But as he stood there with his sightless 
eyes turned towards the heaving waters of the deep 
blue sea a boat was quickly borne towards the 
beach and a cheery voice called out : ' Ho, good 
fellow ! Help me to land in your fine country." 

" I would gladly do so, friend," was the sad 
reply, " but, truth to tell, I am without sight and see 

" But who are you and whence do you come ? : 
asked Nikita. 

" I am Timothy, the brother of Nikita," said the 
blind man, " whose eyes have been darkened by 
Yelena the Haughty Beauty." 

" My own and very true brother," said Nikita 
cheerily. " Turn, Timothy, to the right hand where 
you will find a tall oak growing. Pull out the oak, 
bring it here, and stretch it from the shore across the 
water. Then I will mount upon it and so come to 
you in safety." 

Timothy did as his brother directed and made a 
bridge of the tall oak so that Nikita could creep on 
shore, where he took Timothy in his arms and kissed 
him heartily. 


" Ah, brother," he said, " how is it now with the 
Terrible Tsar ? ' 

' He found his bride," said Timothy, " and she 
is indeed ruddier than the sun, fairer than the moon, 
and whiter than snow, but her heart is as black as 
night. The Terrible Tsar is now in great mis- 
fortune for he is herding his own pigs in the field ! 
Each morning he has for breakfast a pound of sour 
bread, a jug of frozen water, and three stripes upon 
his back ! " 

" Alas," said Nikita. " We now have indeed a 
Terrible Tsaritza." 

Then the two brothers began to discuss their 
present condition and their future plans, and of 
course Nikita was full of ideas. " Brother of mine," 
he said brightly, " you cannot see my condition so I 
must tell you that I am footless. Now as you are 
blind it seems to me that there is only one sound 
man between us. My plan is that you should carry 
me upon your back while I will tell you where to go." 
' It is well," said the blind man, kneeling down 
at once so that his brother could get upon his back. 
Then he walked onward with his new burden, 
onward and ever onward, turning to the right hand 
or to the left as his brother directed him. After a 
long time they came to a dense forest in which stood 
the pine- wood cabin of the wicked Baba-Yaga. 

Nikita directed his brother towards this hut, and 
the two in one entered the home of the wicked Baba- 
Yaga, but found no one inside. ' Feel in the oven, 
brother," said Nikita, " perhaps there is some food 

Tl 1 

'Timothy began to dance, thr cabin also began to dance, the table 
danced ' 


there." Sure enough they found hot savoury food 
in the oven and they sat down to the table and had 
a good meal, for the sea air had made them both 
very hungry. When they were fully satisfied Nikita 
asked his brother to carry him round the cabin in 
order that he might examine everything that was to 
be found in it. On the window-sill he found a small 
whistle, and, putting this to his lips, began to blow. 
The shrill sound had a marvellous effect, for, whether 
he would or would not, Timothy began to dance, 
the cabin also began to dance, the table danced, the 
chairs danced, and even the stove took to its nimble 

" Stop, Nikita," cried Timothy at last, for he 
was utterly exhausted, " I can no longer dance with 
such a burden upon my back." So Nikita stopped 
whistling, and as the last note died away everything 
settled down in quiet once again. Then when all was 
still the door was suddenly opened and the wicked 
Baba-Yaga entered her cottage. 

When she saw the two in one she screamed out 
with a loud voice : 

" You beggars and thieves ! Up to this time 
not even a bird or a beast had come to my lonely 
dwelling, and now you have come to devour my 
food and loosen the very props of my little cottage. 
But very soon, and indeed sooner than that, I will 
settle with you." 

" Hold the wicked old witch, Timothy," cried 
Nikita, and the blind man caught her in his arms 
and squeezed her very hard. Then Nikita seized 


her by the hair, and she was ready enough to make all 
kinds of promises to win her freedom. 

" We want nothing," said Nikita, who had still 
more ideas in his head, " but your whistle and healing 
and living water. I have the whistle already, and 
if you will give us the water, you shall go free once 
more into the white world." 

That I can, and will since I must," said the 

That you shall and are obliged to," replied 

Then the old witch led them to two springs and 
said : 

" Here for your benefit is healing and living 
water." Nikita took of the healing water and 
sprinkled his stumps, whereupon his feet grew out 
as they had been before, but they would not move. 
So he sprinkled them next with living water, and 
they were made sound and whole as they had been 

Guided by his brother, the blind man stooped to 
the spring of healing water and bathed the hollow 
sockets of his eyes. Then eyeballs came into them 
as they had been before, but they could not see. 
So he sprinkled them next with living water and 
they were made sound and useful as they had been 

The brothers thanked the wicked Baba-Yaga and 
gave her a gift in exchange for her help and her 
whistle of which Nikita had need, but she grunted 
and said, " I could, and I would, and I did because 


I must." Then she went off to her cottage and the 
restored men took their way to the city of the Terrible 
Tsar for Nikita had another bright idea. In a field 
outside the palace they found the Terrible Tsar 
herding pigs, whereupon Nikita began to blow on 
the whistle and the pigs began to dance, for their 
ancestors had come from the herd of the wicked 
Baba-Yaga. Yelena the Haughty Beauty saw what 
was happening from the window, but she did not 
laugh, for she was not a woman of that kind. She 
only rose in all her haughty beauty and gave a stern 
command to her servants to take a bunch of rods 
and beat the pig-herd and the two strangers who 
were standing near him. At once the guards ran 
out and brought them to the castle to give them the 
punishment they deserved for their lack of gravity. 
This was just what Nikita desired, for he ran forward 
and seizing Yelena by her lily-white hands in a grasp 
no man or woman could ever resist, he cried : 

" Now, Terrible Tsar, what shall I do with the 
Terrible Tsaritza ? ' 

' Send her home," said the poor worried monarch, 
" out of my sight." So they sent her away to her 
own castle, where she spent all her time in admir- 
ing her beauty in the mirror until she died of dulness. 
But Nikita was made chief minister, and Timothy a 
general, and the Terrible Tsar did whatever they 
wished him to do from that day forward. 



IN a far-off land lived a Tsar and a Tsaritza who had 
one son, whom they named Ivan. They were very 
glad when he was born, and placed him in a beautiful 
oaken cradle among pillows of the softest down, 
covering him with a little eider-down quilt of silk 
from Samarcand. The pillow on which rested his 
little head was ornamented with drawn-thread work 
and all was cosy and comfortable, but try as they 
would the nurse - maidens and they were pretty 
ladies of the highest degree could not rock Ivan 
Tsarevich to sleep. Softly they sang and sweetly 
they crooned, but the young prince roared lustily, 
tossed off the coverlet, kicked out the pillow, and 
beat the sides of the cradle with his little fists. 

At last the nurse-maidens lost all patience and 
they cried out to the Tsar, " Little Father, Little 
Father, come and rock your own son." So the Tsar 
sat down by the side of the cradle, placed his great 
toe upon the rocker, and said : 

' Sleep, little son, sleep, sleep, sleep. Soon 
you will be a man, and then I will get you Peerless 
Beauty as a bride. She is the daughter of three 

291 T 2 


mothers, the granddaughter of three grandmothers, 
and the sister of nine brothers." 

He made this promise once only, and it had such 
a soothing effect upon the restless Tsarevich that he 
went to sleep and continued sleeping for three days 
and three nights, during which time the nurse- 
maidens sat and praised his beauty among them- 
selves. But they ceased talking as soon as he woke 
up again, for now he cried more loudly than ever, 
tossed off the coverlet, kicked out the pillow, and 
beat the sides of the cradle with his little fists. 

Once again the nurse-maidens tried to console 
him and to rock him to sleep, for they loved and 
admired him best in his slumbers ; but he refused 
to sleep, and they were forced to call out, " Little 
Father, Little Father, come and rock your own 

son. : 

The Tsar came once more to the cradle of his 
son and made the wonderful promise, whereupon 
the child fell asleep again and slept for three days 
and three nights. 

But when he woke up he was as naughty as 
before, and for a third time the nurse-maidens had 
to call in the help of the Little Father. 

When the Tsarevich awoke the third time he stood 
upon his cradle and said, " Bless me, Little Father, 
for I am going to my wedding." 

' My dear son," said the Tsar in great wonder- 
ment, ' you are altogether only nine days old. 
How can you marry ? ' 

" That shall be as it is," said the Tsarevich, 

Bless me, Little Father, for I am going to my wedding " 


' and if you will not give me your blessing I fear 
I must marry without it." 

" Well, well," said the Tsar, ' may all good go 
with you." Then he was not in the least surprised 
to see his son step down from the cradle a full-grown 
youth of goodly shape, call for clothes suitable to his 
age they were all ready to hand and then go forth 
to the stable. On the way across the courtyard he 
met an old man who looked at him and said : 

" Young man, where are you going ? ' 

" Mind your own business," said the young 
prince. But when he had gone forward a little 
he stopped and said to himself, That was a 
mistake. Old people know many useful things." 
So he turned again and went after the old man. 

" Stop, stop, grandfather," he said, ' what was 
the question which you put to me ? ' 

" I asked you," said the ancient, ' where you 
were going, and now I add to my question. Are you 
going there of your own free will or against your 
will ? " 

" I am going of my own free will," said the 
Tsarevich, " and twice as much against my will. 
I was in my cradle when my father came to me and 
promised to get me Peerless Beauty as a bride. She 
is the daughter of three mothers, the granddaughter 
of three grandmothers, and the sister of nine brothers. 
So I suppose I must go to seek her." 

" You are a courteous youth," said the old man, 
" and deserve to take advantage of the knowledge of 
the aged. You cannot go on foot to seek out Peerless 


Beauty, for she lives at the edge of the white world 
at the place where the sun peeps up. It is called 
the Golden Kingdom of the East." 

" What shall I do ? " asked the Tsarevich, thrust- 
ing his hands into his belt and standing with feet 
wide apart. E I have no horse of mettle or whip of 
silk for such a ride." 

" Why, your father has thirty horses of the 
best," said the old man, " and the trouble with you 
will be to make a wise choice. Go to the stables 
and tell the grooms to take the thirty to bathe in 
the deep blue sea. When they come to the shore 
you will see one of them push forward into the water 
up to its neck and drink. When this happens watch 
with care to see if the waves rise high and break in 
foam upon the beach. If so, take that horse, for it 
will bear you safely to the edge of the white world 
and to the place where the sun peeps up, which is 
called the Golden Kingdom of the East." 

" Thanks and thanks again, good grandfather," 
said the Tsarevich, who went on to the stables and 
selected his heroic steed in the manner described by 
the old man. On the following morning the Tsare- 
vich was preparing this horse for the journey when 
it turned its head and spoke to him in the speech 
of Holy Russia : 

" Ivan Tsarevich," it said, (< fall down upon the 
lap of moist Mother Earth and I will push you three 
times." The youth was so much astonished to hear the 
horse speak that he found it no difficult matter to fall 
down. Then the horse pushed him once and pushed 


him a second time, but after that it looked at the 
youth for a little time and said, " That will suffice, 
for if I push you a third time moist Mother Earth will 
not be able to bear you." So the Tsarevich rose to 
his feet, saddled his horse, and set out. His father 
and those about him saw him as he mounted, but 
they did not see him as he rode. It was only a 
smoke wreath on the open boundless plain and he 
was gone. Far, far away he rode until the day grew 
short and the long night came on. As the darkness 
fell the rider came to a house as large as a town, 
with rooms each as big as a village. At the great 
door he got down from his horse and tied the bridle 
to a copper ring in the door-post. Then he went 
into the first room and said to an old woman whom 
he found there : 

" May God be good to this house. I should be 
glad to be permitted to spend the night here." 

Where are you journeying ? 3 asked the old 

" That is not the first question," said the Tsare- 
vich. " Give me food to eat and wine to drink, then 
put me next into a warm sleeping chamber. In 
the morning ask me whether I have slept in peace 
and then ask where I may be journeying." And 
the old woman did so, just as the Tsarevich had 

Next morning she asked him the second question 
and he replied, " I was in my cradle when my father 
came to me and promised to get me Peerless Beauty 
as a bride. She is the daughter of three mothers, 


the granddaughter of three grandmothers, and the 
sister of nine brothers." 

' Good youth," said the old woman, " I am nearly 
seventy years of age, but of Peerless Beauty I have 
never heard. But farther on the way lives my elder 
sister. Perhaps she knows." Then Ivan Tsarevich 
went out of the great house, and, after taking courteous 
leave of the old woman, rode far away across the 
open steppe. All day he rode, and as night was 
coming on he came to a second house as large as a 
town, with each room as large as a village. He dis- 
mounted from his horse, tied the bridle to a silver 
ring in the door-post, and asked an old woman whom 
he met in the first room if he might have a night's 
lodging. And here it happened as it had happened 
before, only the old woman was eighty years of age. 

: Farther on the road," she said, ' : lives my elder 
sister and she has givers of answers. The first givers 
of answers are the fishes and other dwellers in the 
heaving restless sea ; the second givers of answers 
are the wild beasts of the dark forests ; and the third 
givers of answers are the birds of the open air. 
Whatever is in the whole white world is obedient to 
the will of my elder sister." 

Once again Ivan Tsarevich set out and came to a 
house where he tied his horse to a golden ring, and 
was received by an old, old woman who screamed 
at him in a voice like a flock of peacocks : 

" O you man of boldness, why have you tied 
your horse to a golden ring when an iron ring would 
be too good for you ? ' 


Patience, good grandmother," said the Tsare- 
vich gently, " it is easy to loose the bridle and tie the 
horse to another ring." 

c Ah, my good youth," said the old woman gently, 
and as one would speak to a child, " did I frighten 
you ? Sit down now on the bench and take food 
and drink." Ivan did so, and then without being 
asked he told the old woman where he was going 
and what was his quest. 

' Go to your rest," she said shortly. " In the 
morning I will call my givers of answers." 

Next morning the old woman and the young 
man sat in the porch, and the former gave a heroic 
whistle, whereupon the blue sea heaved in a great 
heap, and the fishes, large and small, sea-serpents 
and sea-dragons, rose upon the surface and made for 
the shore. 

' Come no farther," said the old woman, raising 
her right hand. " Tell me where this good youth 
can find Peerless Beauty." Then the answer came 
from a million mouths, " We have not seen or heard 
of her." 

The old woman blew her whistle and the forests 
echoed to the sound of a million voices of wild 
beasts, but the answer to her question was, We 
have not seen or heard of her." 

' Come hither," said the grandmother, " all ye 
birds of the air." And in a moment the light of the 
sun was hidden and the sound of flapping wings was 
like a tempest. But the answer of the birds to the 
question was, " We have not seen or heard of her." 


" My givers of answers fail me," said the ancient 
woman as she took Ivan by the lily-white hand and 
led him into the house. Then there flew through the 
open window the Mogol Bird which fell to the 
ground at her feet. 

" Ah, Mogol Bird," said the old woman, " whither 
hast thou come ? ' 

" I come from the home of Peerless Beauty," 
was the tired reply, " and I have been dressing her 
for Mass in the Cathedral." 

The old woman clapped her hands in delight. 
" That is the news I seek," she said. " Now, Mogol 
Bird, do me a favour. Carry this young man, Ivan 
Tsarevich, to the home of Peerless the Beauty." 

" That I will," was the reply, " but we shall 
need a great deal of food." 

" How much ? " asked the old woman. 

" Three hundredweight of beef," was the answer, 
" and a keg full of water." 

Ivan filled a large keg with water and placed it 
upon the back of the Mogol Bird with the heaped-up 
piles of beef round about it. Then he ran to the 
forge and told the smith to make him a long iron 
lance, and with this weapon in his hand he sat on 
the edge of the keg with the beef all round about 
him. Up rose the Mogol Bird and once it was 
under way it flew so steadily that the top of the water 
in the keg remained always level, but now and again 
the bird would slowly turn its head and look at Ivan, 
when he would at once give it a large piece of beef 
upon the point of his long iron lance. 


Onward, and ever onward, flew the Mogol Bird, 
feeding on the beef and drinking the water from 
Ivan's cap, which he extended at the point of his 
lance, until all the meat and water were finished, 
whereupon the Tsarevich threw the keg overboard. 

" O Mogol Bird," he said, " haste to finish your 
journey, for there is no more beef and there is no 
more water." 

" I cannot go down to earth in this spot," said 
the bird, " for beneath us there is nothing but a 
bog like glue. And I must have more meat. If you 
cannot get beef, veal will do." So Ivan cut off the 
calves of his own legs, and when the bird had re- 
freshed itself it flew on till it came to a green meadow 
with tall silken grass and blue flowers. Here it flew 
down to earth, and Ivan alighted, but, of course, 
walked very lame. 

" What makes you halt, Ivan Tsarevich ? " asked 
the Mogol Bird, and when the young man told what 
he had done the bird blew upon the back of his legs 
and restored him to his former condition. 

On went the young man, eager to finish his 
quest, until he came to a great town, where he entered 
a narrow street and found an old woman in a poor, 
mean house, who seemed to be expecting him. 

" Go to bed and sleep soundly after your flight, 
Ivan," she said, " and when the bell rings I will 
call you." 

The young man lay down and slept soundly, so 
soundly that when the bell rang for early morning 
prayers not all the calling nor all the shaking, nor all 


the shouting nor all the beating could rouse him. 
Then the bell rang again for Mass, and the old grand- 
mother tried once more, calling, shaking, shouting, 
beating, but all with no result, until she took a tiny 
feather and tickled the sleeper's nose. Then he 
awoke with a start, washed himself very clean, 
dressed himself very carefully, and went to Mass in 
the cathedral. He bowed first to the high altar, 
then to North, South, East, and West, and especially 
to Peerless Beauty, who knelt alone in the church. 
So Ivan Tsarevich knelt beside her and then stood 
beside her while she prayed. When the service was 
over the young man looked at Peerless Beauty, and 
looked again and yet again without speaking, and 
while he looked six brave heroes came up from the 
sea-shore and stood at the great door of the cathedral. 
Peerless Beauty went to meet them with Ivan Tsare- 
vich close behind her. 

" What country clown is this ? " cried the brave 
heroes, but Ivan stepped before Peerless Beauty 
and swung his right arm in a circle three times round ; 
and when he stopped the heroes were lying at the 
feet of the Princess in a heap of confusion. 

Then Ivan Tsarevich went back to the old grand- 
mother, who put him to bed. On the second day it 
all fell out as on the first occasion. Peerless Beauty 
looked at Ivan as he knelt in silence by her side, and 
as she looked she blushed. On the third day it all 
fell out as on the first in every particular except that 
when Ivan entered the church Peerless Beauty gave 
him a silent salutation and then came and stood at 


his left hand ; and when the young man had laid 
low six more scornful heroes Peerless Beauty took 
him by the hand, and together, without a word, they 
went up to the priest and took the golden crowns. 
After that they went home and feasted, and then 
prepared to set out for the home of Ivan Tsarevich. 
Over the open boundless plain they rode, speaking 
little, but looking much and smiling frequently, until 
Peerless Beauty grew weary and lay down to rest, 
while Ivan Tsarevich guarded her slumber. When 
she awoke refreshed the bridegroom said : 

' Now guard my slumbers, Peerless Beauty, for 
I am very weary." 

Will your sleep be short or long ? " asked the 

' I shall sleep," said Ivan, " for no longer and 
no shorter than nine days and nine nights. If you 
try to arouse me I shall not wake, but when the end 
of the time comes I shall wake without any arousing." 

' I shall be weary of waiting and watching, Ivan 
Tsarevich," said Peerless Beauty with a sigh. 

Weary or not, it cannot be set aside or gainsaid 
or altered," said Ivan Tsarevich. Then he lay down 
and slept for nine days and nine nights. And while 
he slept there came a rushing whirlwind across the 
open steppe, and in the heart of the whirlwind, 
where was the point of peace, rested Koschei Who 
Never Dies, who bore away Peerless Beauty to his 
kingdom beyond the sea. And Ivan Tsarevich 
awoke without any arousing to find himself alone. 

Sadly he gazed across the empty boundless plain, 


and when he arose, went back to the town, sought out 
the old woman in the poor, mean house, who seemed 
to be expecting him, and told her all his tale of 

' I had all things," he said, ' and now I have 

' Go to bed and sleep soundly after your sorrow, 
Ivan," she said, and he went to bed, but could sleep 
neither soundly nor restlessly. But at midnight 
there came a rushing whirlwind across the open 
steppe, and in the heart of the whirlwind, where was 
the point of peace, rested Koschei Who Never Dies, 
who bore away Ivan Tsarevich to his kingdom 
beyond the sea. 

At the gate of the palace Ivan knocked tock, 
tock and the wicket-gate in the large gate was opened 
by Peerless Beauty, who peeped out with eyes like 
violets wet with the rain, and cheeks like roses in 
the morning sun, and a brow like a seed pearl of 
priceless lustre. She opened the little wicket -gate 
wide, and Ivan stepped in. Then they went to an 
upper room, where the bridegroom said to the bride : 
When Koschei comes home, ask him where his 
death is." 

Then Koschei came in at one door and Ivan went 
out at another door. 

" Phu ! phu ! " said Koschei Who Never Dies, 
' I smell the blood of a Russian. Was it Ivan 
Tsarevich who was with you just now, at this moment, 
and recently ? ' 

Why, Koschei Who Never Dies," said Peerless 


Beauty clasping her hands, Ivan Tsarevich has 
long ago been devoured by wild beasts of the plain, 
at least it must have been so and not otherwise." 
So they sat down to supper, and when Koschei had 
eaten well and drunk better Peerless Beauty said to 
him, " Tell me, now, Koschei, where is your death ? ' 

" It is tied up in the broom, silly one," said 
Koschei ; " why do you wish to know ? : 

Next morning Koschei Who Never Dies went out 
at the head of his men to fight, and as soon as he had 
gone Ivan Tsarevich came to Peerless Beauty and 
kissed her sugar lips. Then she took the broom 
from the corner near the stove and gilded it all over 
with pure beaten gold. When this was done and 
it took a long time to cover each twig of the birch 
boughs with the gold Ivan left his bride and Koschei 
Who Never Dies came in by another door. 

" Phu ! phu ! " he said, " I smell the blood of a 
Russian. Was it Ivan Tsarevich who was with you 
just now, at this moment, and recently ? ' 

" Why, Koschei Who Never Dies," said Peerless 
Beauty clasping her hands, " you have been flying 
through Russia and have caught up the odour of the 
country on your own garments. Where should I 
see Ivan Tsarevich ? ' Then they sat down to 
supper, and Koschei saw the gilded broom lying 
across the threshold. " What does this mean ? ' ' he 
asked sternly. 

" See how I honour you," said Peerless Beauty, 
" for I gild even Death for you." 

" Little simpleton, I fooled you," said Koschei. 


' My death is not in the broom, but is concealed in 
the oak fence." 

Next day it fell out as before. Peerless Beauty, 
helped by Ivan Tsarevich, gilded the fence, and 
when Koschei saw it burning like fire in the evening 
sun, he laughed and said to Peerless Beauty : 

" Little simpleton, I fooled you. My death is in 
an egg, the egg is in a downy duck, and the duck is 
in the stump of a tree which floats upon the open sea." 

Next day Peerless Beauty rose very early, before 
the sun was up, and went to the stove in the kitchen. 
" I must send Ivan Tsarevich/' she said, " on the 
long search for that downy duck. He has a long way 
to go, so I must bake him a love cake. So she baked 
him not one love cake but three, and as she kneaded 
the dough, she spoke a love-spell into it so that Ivan 
Tsarevich should fare well on his journey. The cakes 
were browned and buttered and wrapped in a napkin 
of fine white linen, with edges of drawn thread- work, 
when Ivan came into the kitchen just as the sun rose. 
Then he put his arms about the cake-baker, and she 
whispered into his ear where to look for the death of 
Koschei. And Ivan kissed her honey mouth and 
went out with the cakes in his pouch. 

Onward he went and ever onward, until he came 
to the margin of the ocean sea, and then he knew 
not how to go farther. He had eaten all the cakes 
and was very hungry, so very hungry that when a 
hawk flew up above his head, he cried : ' Hawk, 
hawk, I will shoot you dead and eat you without 


Why eat me ? ! ' asked the hawk in the speech of 
Holy Russia, ' I can be of good service to you." 

Then a great bear came shambling along with its 
fore-paws turned inwards to show that it was a bear 
of good breeding. " Bear, bear," said Ivan, " I will 
shoot you dead and eat you without cooking." 

Why eat me ? ' asked the bear in the speech 
of Holy Russia, " I can be of good service to you." 

Then Ivan saw a great pike leap from the ocean 
sea and lie floundering upon the shingle shore. 
c Pike, pike," said he, " I will kill you and eat you 
without cooking." 

' Better, far better, and much the best," said the 
pike, " if you cast me into the sea." 

' It seems to me," said Ivan Tsarevich, " that 
the cakes of Peerless Beauty have wrought a spell, 
and that I am to have nothing further to eat. Well, 
then, in the strength of those cakes I will go on with 
it." So he flung the floundering pike back into the 
ocean sea, and when it splashed the great water boiled 
up and began to race along and up the shore so 
quickly that Ivan was forced to run before it with 
all his might and main. 

Onward he ran and ever onward, with the water 
racing at his heels and occasionally washing them. 1 
Onward he ran and ever upward, until he came to a 
tall tree upon a high bank of sand. Upward he 
climbed and ever upward, and then saw that now 
the waters of the ocean sea were quickly falling ; and 

1 No doubt this was the first person who ever showed " a clean pair of 


when they had gone back within their own boundaries 
Ivan saw that they had left high up on the shore a 
huge stump of a tree. 

The bear ran up, raised the stump in its arms, and 
hugged it until it cracked snap, smash and from 
the inside of it flew out a downy duck, which soared 
high and ever higher, until it looked like a dark green 
bottle with a long neck. Then the hawk flew up 
and caught it, whereupon an egg fell into the sea, 
which was caught by the pike, which swam to the 
beach and laid it gently at Ivan's feet. 

The young man placed the egg in the warm napkin 
within his pouch and ran forward, ever forward, 
until he came to Peerless Beauty, who was stooping 
over the stove in the kitchen. Ivan put his arms 
about the cake-baker, who grasped his hands and 
pressed them ; and when she stood upright the egg 
was in her left palm. 

Ivan turned and saw Koschei sitting on the win- 
dow ledge and scowling at him, because he expected 
that the cakes and baked meats that Peerless Beauty 
was cooking were all for him. But as the two rushed 
to the grip, Peerless Beauty dropped the egg upon 
the stove. It broke, and as the shell cracked, 
Koschei 's heart broke also, and he fell down dead. 

Then the bride and bridegroom went to the eating 
room, and Ivan Tsarevich feasted on cakes and baked 
meats which Peerless Beauty had prepared when 
he was on his journey to the ocean sea ; and after 
that they went to the country of Ivan's father, who 
rubbed his eyes when he saw them and said, " Why, 


Ivan Tsarevich left home when he was only nine 
days old, and now he brings Peerless Beauty to me as 
my daughter. Well, I never ! ' 

" Well, we never ! " cried the nurse-maidens in a 

chorus, as they ran to get ready for the second wedding, 

which was to be celebrated with great splendour. 

' Really, we never did ! Whoever would have 

thought it ? " 

There is very little doubt that Ivan Tsarevich was 
the first " nine days' wonder " that ever was. 

Printed by R. & R. CLARK, LIMITED, Edinhurgh.